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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 45, New Delhi, October 23, 2021

Chronology Samjhiye Rajnath Singhji: Do not Outrageously Falsify History by Linking Gandhi with Savarkar’s Mercy Petitions | S N Sahu

Saturday 23 October 2021, by S N Sahu


V D Savarkar who desperately submitted multiple clemency petitions to the British authorities from 1911 onwards for his release from Cellular jail of Andamans was also charged with conspiracy to murder of Mahatma Gandhi and the then Home Minister of India Sardar Patel wrote to Prime Minister Nehru on 27 February 1948 that ““ It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy ( to murder Gandhi Ji). “ Seventy three years after Sardar Patel’s assertions linking Gandhi’s assassination to the conspiracy of Savarkar the present Defence Minister of India who held Home Portfollio from 2014 to 2019 in Modi regime uttered a ghastly lie that mercy petitions were submitted by Savarkar on the request of Mahatma Gandhi. He did so on 12th October 2021 while releasing a book “Veer Savarkar: The Man Who Could Have Prevented Partition” authored by Uday Mahurkar.

Chronology Samjhiye (Understand the Chronology)

Rajnath Singh should have been guided by the present Home Minister Amit Shah’s oft quoted words, “Aap Chronology Samjhiye” to understand the timeline of the clemency petitions of Savrkar and if Gandhi was in Anadamans or even in India for tendering advice to “Veer” Savarkar who heroically followed it in letter and spirit to beg for mercy for setting himself free from the prison.

The impossibility of Gandhi requesting V D Savarkar to submit mercy petitions would have dawned on Rajnath Singh if he had cared for accepting the truth that the former was spearheading his first Satyagraha in South Africa when the latter submitted at least four mercy petitions during 1911 and 1914while serving the jail term in Cellular jail. How would Gandhi have reached out to Sarvakar when he was lodged in impregnable Cellur jail with prisoners hardly getting any access to the outside world. To tell such a horrible lie in the name of Mahatma Gandhi and that too by the none less than Defence Minister of the country is nothing but violence to Gandhi and an attempt to cover up the truth that Savarkar on his own submitted more than five mercy petitions to the British authorities pathetically pleading for his release.

Gandhi Pleaded For Release of Savarkar When He was Shown no Clemency

It is worth quoting from Savarkar’s second mercy petition of 1913 wherein he stated “I remind your Honour to be so good as to go through the petition for clemency I had sent in 1911..." He then continued, "I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like...the mighty alone can be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government..."

In fact Gandhi in spite of not having requested Savarkar to file clemency petitions pleaded for his release when in 1920 he was informed by latter’s brother D N Savarkar that in the list of prisoners issued by British authorities for release, based on their appeals for mercy, his brother V D Savarkar’s name was not there. On 8th January 1920 D N Savarkar sent a telegram to Gandhi seeking for advice and guidance for future course of action because V D Savarkar was not released from prison. The contents of the telegram were : “It is now clear that the Indian Govt. have decided not to release them. Please let me hear from you as to how to proceed in such circumstances. They (my brothers) have already undergone a rigorous sentence for more than ten years in the Andamans and their health is utterly shattered. Their weight has come down from 118 to 95-100. Though they are given a hospital diet at present, their health does not show any sign of improvement. At least a change to some Indian jail of better climate is the most essential for them. I have received a letter from one of them very recently (a month back) in which all this is mentioned. I hope that you will let me know what you mean to do in this matter.”

In response to the telegram Gandhi wrote on 25th January 1920, “It is difficult to advise you. I suggest, however, your framing a brief petition setting forth the facts of the case bringing out in clear relief the fact that the offence committed by your brother was purely political. I suggest this in order that it would be possible to concentrate public attention on the case. Meanwhile as I have said to you in an earlier letter I am moving in the matter in my own way.”

It is crystal clear from the above letter that Gandhi wanted to portray offences committed by V D Sarkar as political so as to make it plausible for seeking public attention and support in his favour. In other words Gandhi took a position that public opinion should be drawn to the point that V D Savarkar was a political prisoner. It was evidenced from the stand taken by Gandhi that his interpretation of offences committed by Savarkar as political would make it easier for people to gravitate in its favour. It is tragic that even such a positive stand of Gandhi for setting Savarkar free was given a spin and interpreted as an endorsement of clemency petitions of Savarkar.

Savarkar did not desire independence from British Rule

Four months later Gandhi wrote an article “Savarkar Brothers” in Young India on 26th May 1920. While recalling their activities and stating that “His (V D Savarkar’s) sensational attempt to escape the custody of the police and his jumping through a porthole in French waters are still fresh in the public mind” he pleaded for their release by citing, among other grounds, that "They both state unequivocally that they do not desire independence from the British connection. On the contrary, they feel that India’s destiny can be best worked out in association with the British." It is noteworthy that Gandhi wrote, “Both these brothers have declared their political opinions and both have stated that they do not entertain any revolutionary ideas and that if they were set free they would like to work under the Reforms Act(Government of India Act, 1919).” He also stated that “Nobody has questioned their honour or their honesty, and in my opinion the published expression of their views ought to be taken at its face value”. Such observations of Gandhi made it clear that V D Savarkar should be released because they stopped desiring independence of India from British rule and restrained themselves from entertaining revolutionary ideas. That stand of V D Savarkar as is evidenced from Gandhi’s above article was in complete contrast to the spirit of freedom struggle which got accelerated by Lokmanya Tilak’s electrifying slogan “Swaraj is my birth right” and Gandhi’s advent following his successful Satyagraha in Champaran in 1917 and non-violent campaign in the aftermath of Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

It is instructive to note that Gandhi in his article published in Young India on 18th May 1921 attributed the continued incarceration of V D Savarkar and his brother to the non-cooperation movement and wrote,

“Those who are really interested in the release of the brothers and such others as are suffering imprisonment ... must hasten the fulfilment of the non-co-operation programme and therefore the advent of swaraj.” He proceeded further to add “Meanwhile, we must not only put up with the existing incarcerations, but we must seek imprisonment ourselves, by offending the Government in all just, lawful and peaceful ways”. But why did Gandhi link release of Savarkar and his brother with the advent of Swaraj in 1921? The answer to that question could be found in the country wide non-cooperation movement of that year for achieving Swaraj within one year.

While Gandhi was linking their release from Cellular jail to the advent of Swaraj V D Savarkar was stating that he had “no desire for independence from the British connection”.

In 1921 V D savarkar was shifted to a Pune jail from Cellular Jail of Andamans and in 1924 he was released with the condition that he would be confined to Ratnagiri and keep away from any political activity.

When Gandhi Refused to Sign Memorial for Release of Savarkar

In 1937 when Mahatma Gandhi refused to sign a memorial for the release of Savarkar he was accused by N C Kelkar as being anti Maharashtraian. Later on 20th July 1937 in a letter to Shanker Rao Deo Gandhi wrote “About Shri Savarkar, I did refuse to sign the memorial for, as I told those who came to me, it was wholly unnecessary as Shri Savarkar was bound to be released after the coming into force of the new Act, no matter who the Ministers were. And that is what has happened. The Savarkar Brothers, at least, know that whatever the differences between us as to certain fundamentals, I could never contemplate with equanimity their incarceration.”

Savarkar Supported British Rule

All these writings of Gandhi from his Collected Works clearly prove the point that he never played any role, as is falsely claimed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in requesting V D Savarkar to submit mercy petitions to the British regime for his release from Cellular Jail. Gandhi rather tried for the release of Savarkar by flagging the point that the offences committed by him were political and the political views expressed by them while in Cellular Jail were not harmful to the British regime.

In fact on 27th December 1941 Gandhi in a statement to the press disapproved of Bihar Government’s denial of permission to the Hindu Mahasabha led by Savarkar to hold a meeting and stated that those who proclaimed their desire to hold the meeting were responsible men, trusted by the British Government, known to be pro-Government and identified themselves with the war effort.

Divisive Ideology of Savarkar

Notwithstanding such stand taken by Gandhi in defence of the rights of Savarkar and their release from Cellular Jail he was critical of his divisive ideology which is a source of inspiration for Modi regime. For instance on 8 August 1942 he while speaking at the All India Congress Committee meeting referred to “fratricidal war” and said “Those Hindus who, like Dr. Moonje and Shri Savarkar, believe in the doctrine of the sword may seek to keep the Mussalmans under Hindu domination. I do not represent that section.” The divisive dimensions of his ideology flagged by Gandhi in 1942 is now playing out in India spelling dangerous consequences for the Republic, Constitution of India and our composite culture. No wonder, therefore, that President K R Narayanan because of his deep commitment to the Constitution rejected Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s proposal to confer Bharat Ratna on Savarkar.

In Spite of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideological differences with Savarkar he left no stone unturned for his release from prison. The latter made desperate and pathetic attempts to get out of cellular jail even by relying on the strength of Gandhi who according to Sardar Patel was killed because of the conspiracies hatched by Savarkar himself.

(Author: S.N. Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty and press secretary to former President of India K R Narayanan)

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