Vinayak Savarkar, popularly known as Swatantryaveer Savarkar, was a highly respected freedom fighter, political leader, social reformer, historian as well as philosopher. He is credited with the origin of the term 'Hindutva', and was arguably the first freedom fighter to raise the demand for complete independence from the British rule. Savarkar's philosophy, while based on universalism and pragmatism, has been nevertheless criticised by many as exclusionistic and biased towards Hindus.
Savarkar was born on 28 May 1883 in a jagirdaar (landlord) family in Nashik, Maharashtra, to Damodar Savarkar and RadhaBai. He was sent to the Shivaji School with his elder brother Ganesh (Babarao). After both his parents died, the responsibility of the family came on to the shoulders of Babarao. Vinayak was drawn to nationalistic sentiment from an early age, being engaged in organising a youth organisation called Milan Mela. It comprised of young men like him, whose main motive was to motivate people for an independent India. Mitra Mela was also involved in several social activities, including helping people to cremate the dead bodies during the deadly Plague of the late 1890s.
College life and activities
Savarkar was very active in his college and took several initiatives to instill patriotic feelings inside the young. His university education was supported by his father in law, Ramchandra Chiplunkar, and he got admitted in the Fergusson College in Pune in 1902. During this time he dominated the campus and took several initiatives to discard foreign goods to the extent possible. In 1905, he arranged for a huge bonfire during Dussera and dumped all foreign goods into it as a symbol of protest against Bengal's partition. In 1906 he went to London to study law.
Stay in India house and Arrest
Savarakar used to stay in the India House of London established by Pandit Krishna Verma Shyamji, and it was considered to be the hub of Indian students. Here he founded the Free India Society and organised several functions for the Indian community, such as Indian festivals, anniversaries of eminent personalities, etc. Apart from this, his other anti-British activities like writing a book named The History of the War of Indian Independence, distributing leaflets on how to make a bomb, his association with Madanlal Dhingra (who assassinated Sir Wyllie), etc., brought him to limelight amidst mixed extreme reactions. Following several other incidents, Savarakar and his brother Babarao were arrested in 1910. He was sentenced to 25 years of jail by the court and was sent to the cellular jail of Andamans.
Life in Jail
Savarkar stayed in jail from 1911 to 1924, where he lived the harsh life of a prisoner. But his passion for freedom of his country didn't die down. He used to spend his time in quiet contemplation, most likely making further plans. He managed to obtain permission to open a library in jail and used to teach the illiterate prisoners how to read and write.
Conditional release and Hindutva
With constant efforts of his contemporary political friends, Savarkar was freed from jail on the condition that he would refrain from any political activity. It was during this time that he penned down his ideological treatise Hindutva disguised through his pen name Maharatta. Later, he founded the Hindu Sabha, whose main motive was to preserve and preach ancient Hindu culture for the betterment of the society. His contributions were many, like protecting minority rights, promotion of goodwill during Hindu Festivals, encouraging inter-caste marriages, liberation of untouchables, promoting the Hindi language, and others.
Savarkar was a great freedom fighter and the passion for the same drove him to support Gandhi's Quit India movement in 1942. But with the assassination of the Mahatma, Savarkar's name came into news for wrong reasons. Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Gandhi, was indirectly associated with Savarkar’s Mahasabha, and this led to a belief that Savarkar was privy to the crime. However, Godse vehemently denied the accusation and Savarkar was given a clean chit.
Savarkar wrote several books and articles in Marathi, like Kamala, Kala Pani, Mopayyanche Band, Gandhi Gondhal, etc. His poetic genius was discovered when he penned down Sagara Pran Talmalala, Jayostute and several others.
Later life and death
Throughout his life, Savarkar was never liked by the Indian National Congress for his intrepid nationalism and political approach. Senior Congress leaders refused to honour him or even share the same ground with him. During the last phase of life, he gave up medicines, water and food to die by fasting. His cremation was attended by a huge crowd. Movies such as Kaala Pani and Veer Savarkar in Malayalam and Marathi, respectively, are based on his life and work.
Also on this day
1908 – Leela Majumdar, Bengali author, was born
1937 – Manmohan Desai, Indian producer and director, was born
2004 – Shankarrao Chavan, 4th Chief Minister of Maharashtra, died