Gandhi and Savarkar

Despite having a difference in means of liberating the country from slavery, Mahatma Gandhi maintained a rare, complex and respectful relationship with the Savarkar brothers - V. D. Savarkar and G.D. Savarkar. This is evident in ‘The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi’, which has spread into 100 thick hardbound volumes. 

Eyeing political benefits from successive Congress regimes, the Communist historians have been making repeated attempts to besmirch the patriotic image of Veer Savarkar citing Jett clemency. Contrary to their false accusations, Mahatma Gandhi explains how the Savarkar brothers were denied justice when the majority of political prisoners received the benefit of the ‘Royal Clemency'. Mahatma Gandhi's views on Savarkar are quite revealing and it is interesting to note how Gandhi saw the contributions of a revolutionary like Savarkar to the freedom struggle, despite their divergent views on many points. 

‘Thanks to the action of the Government of India and the Provincial Governments, many of those who were undergoing imprisonment at the time have received the benefit of the Royal clemency. But there are some notable ‘political offenders' who have not yet been discharged. Among these I count the Savarkar brothers. They are political offenders in the same sense as men, for instance, who have been discharged in the Punjab. And yet these two brothers have not received their liberty although five months gone by after the publication of the Proclamation,’ Gandhi wrote in an article titled 'Savarkar Brothers' in Young India dated 26-5-1920 (Complete Works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol 20; Page 368). 

For the political prisoners, it was a common procedure for appealing for conditional clemency in a prescribed format. From the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, it Is beyond doubt that he was aware of Savarkar's clemency letter, as a majority of the political prisoners in those days had applied for and was granted Royal Clemency, which was later protected as an unpardonable and unprecedented crime by the Leftists. 

The Mahatma offers a brief biography of G. D. Savarkar in the article: 

Mr. Ganesh Damodar Savarkar, the elder of the two, was born in 1879, and received an ordinary education. He took a prominent part in the swadeshi movement at Nasik in 1908. He was sentenced to transportation for life with confiscation of property under Sections 121, 121A, 124A and 153A on 9th day of June, 1909, and is now serving his sentence in the Andamans. He has therefore had eleven years of imprisonment. Section 121 is the famous section which was utilized during the Punjab trials and refers to 'waging war against the King’. The minimum penalty is transportation for life with forfeiture of property. 121A is a similar section. 124A relates to sedition. 153A related to promotion of enmity between classes 'by words either spoken or written' or ‘otherwise’. It is clear therefore that all the offence charged against Mr. Savarkar (senior) were of a public nature. He had done no violence. He was married, had two daughters who are dead, and his wife died about eighteen months ago. 

After giving a brief profile of G. D. Savarkar, Mahatma Gandhi introduces Veer Savarkar thus: 

The other brother (Veer Savarkar) was born in 1884, and better known for his career in London. His 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 was educated at the Fergusson College, finished off in London and became a barrister. He is the author of the proscribed history of the Sepoy Revolt of 1857. He was tried in 1910, and received the same sentence as his brother on 24th December, 1910. He was charged also in 1911 with abetment of murder. No act of violence was proved against him either. He too is married, had a son in 1909. His wife is still alive. 

Elaborating on the content of the letters of the Savarkar brothers, Mahatma Gandhi states: 

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), for they consider that the Reforms enable one to work there under so as to achieve political responsibility for India. 

With Mahatma Gandhi quoting the conditions proposed in the original letter, the big Leftist lie of 'cover-up’ against Savarkar falls flat. Gandhiji speaks a self-evident truth that those including Gandhiji were fully aware of the content of the letters of Savarkar. Noticeably, it did not prevent him from calling Savarkar 'a faithful son of Bharat and brave.’ As Gandhiji hailed Savarkar, he was 'clever' enough to take advantage of the situation where in seeking clemency was a norm, that has been extended to the most of the revolutionaries and political prisoners in the country during that period of time, as vouched for by the Mahatma Gandhiji further writes: 

What is more, I think, it may be safely stated that the cult of violence has, at the present moment no following in India. Now the only reason for still further restricting the liberty of the two brothers can be ‘danger to public safety’ for the viceroy has been charged by His majesty to exercise the Royal clemency to political offenders in the fullest manner which in his judgement is compatible with public safety. 

I hold therefore that unless there is absolute proof that the discharge of the two brothers who have already suffered long enough terms of imprisonment, who have lost considerably in body-weight and who have declared their political opinions, can be proved to be a danger to the state, the viceroy is bound to give them their liberty. The obligation to discharge them, on the one condition of public safety being fulfilled, is, in the Viceroy’s political capacity, just as imperative as it was for the Judges in their judicial capacity to impose on the two brothers the minimum penalty allowed by law. If they are to be kept under detention any longer a full statement justifying it is due to the public. 

This case is no better and worse than that of Bhai Parmanand who, thanks to the Punjab Government, has after a long term of imprisonment received his discharge. Nor need his case be distinguished from that of the Savarkar brothers in the sense that Bhai Parmanand pleaded absolute. So far as the Government are concerned, all were alike guilty because all were convicted. And the Royal clemency is due not merely doubtful cases but equally to all cases of offences proved up to the hilt. The conditions are that the offence must be political and the exercise of clemency should not, in the opinion of the Viceroy, endanger public safety. There is no question about the brothers being political offenders. And so far the public are aware there is no danger to public safety, In answer to a question in the Viceregal Council in connection with such cases the reply given was that they were under consideration. But their brother has received from the Bombay Government a reply to the effect that no further memorials regarding them will be received and Mr. Montagu has stated in the House of Commons that in the opinion of the Government of India they cannot be released. The case however cannot be so easily shelved. The public are entitled to know the precise grounds upon which the liberty of the brothers is being restrained in spite of the Royal Proclamation which to them is as good as a royal charter having the force of law. 

Another note by Gandhiji, published in the Complete Works Vol 23 (page 156), titled "Horniman and Company’ begins apologetically, expressing his helplessness in the case of the Savarkar brothers after people complained to him as to why he was reluctant even to write about the brothers. Gandhiji writes: 

Friends have accused me of indifference about Mr. Horniman, and some have also wondered why I rarely write about the Savarkar Brothers. 

If I mention Mr. Horniman's case or that of the Savarkar Brothers, I can mention it not to influence the Government's decision, but to stimulate the public in favour of non-co-operation. I would be delighted to have Mr. Horniman back as an able and brave comrade. I know that he was unjustly deported. 

The Savarkar brothers' talent should be utilized for public welfare. As it is, India is in danger of losing her two faithful sons, unless she wakes up in time. One of the brothers I know well. I had the pleasure of meeting him in London. He is brave. He is clever. He is a patriot. He was frankly a revolutionary. The evil in its hideous form, of the present system of Government, he saw much earlier than I did, He is in the Andamans for his having loved India too well. Under a just Government he would be occupying a high office. I therefore feel for him and his brother.. 

The writings of Mahatma Gandhi on Savarkar should be viewed as a ‘new’ discovery, as there has been a concerted effort to suppress these historical facts. Gandhiji is in fact, busting the Communist lies against Savarkar that have cast a shadow of doubt over one of India’s bravest sons for the last several decades. For Communists, history is not just a tool for revealing something favourable for their cult, but concealing truths bitter to them-this is passed off academic exercise. The years ahead are more frightening as we outlive the ‘freedom fighters' and the national sentiments attached to their lives. 

This critical juncture of time should not become fertile ground for propagandists who are working to destroy the cultural and social fabric of the nation. On the eve of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, independent researchers and historians should make sincere efforts to shed more light on the warm, respectful, and multi-layered relationship cherished by V D Savarkar and Gandhiji, the two bright stars of Hind Swaraj. 

(Source: ‘Hindutva for the Changing Times’ by J. Nandakumar, Indus Scrolls Press) 

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