"The writing of history is the royal road to the definition of a country and the identity of a society is in large part a function of historical interpretation."
- Edward Said
NO sooner had it grabbed power at the Centre under the guise of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Bharatiya Janata Party decided on a systematic rewriting of India's history because it was determined to carry out its plans to redefine India as a Hindu state in all but name and so mould the identity of Indian society that, over time, even the pretence of secularism could be discarded. The issue of V.D. Savarkar's place in the history of India's struggle for freedom was raised only recently in that context. It is central to that insidiously sordid exercise.
Appraisal of the role of any figure in history is always a challenge to intellectual integrity and competences, particularly when the record is a mixed one. Savarkar was born in 1883 and died in 1966. His inspiring work The First Indian War of Independence - 1857 was published in London in 1909. Arrested on charges of abetment of murders, waging war against the British Crown and so on, he escaped through the port-hole of the ship, which was to bring him to Mumbai, when it anchored at Marseilles, but was captured on French soil by British pursuers. This and the Anglo-French litigation that followed gave him a halo of heroism. Savarkar was tried by a Special Tribunal of three of the best Judges - the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court Sir Basil Scott, Sir John Heaton and Sir Narayan G. Chandavarkar, an eminent educationist.
He was sentenced to transportation for life and sent to Port Blair in the Andamans on July 4, 1911. Unknown to the public and even to his family, he sent a mercy petition before the year ended. Savarkar wrote Hindutva in 1923 on his return to India. It propounded the two-nation theory, 16 years before M.A. Jinnah did. In 1948 he was tried as a conspirator, along with Nathuram Godse, in the Gandhi murder case but was acquitted because the case against him rested on the evidence of an approver and the legally requisite independent corroborative evidence did not exist. From 1950 to 1966 he lived under an undertaking to the state not to take part in political activity. It was the last of at least four known similar apologies and undertakings he had given - in 1911, 1913, 1925 and 1948. It was not exactly a glorious end to a "revolutionary's" career. To define "the issue of Savarkar": What was heroic about his behaviour from 1911 to 1966 when he died? It is a record of 55 years - half a century of a life between the ages of 28 and 83.
The Janata Party government, headed by Morarji Desai and of which A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani were members, declared the cellular jail complex in the Andamans a national memorial. None of the three then said a word in praise of Savarkar. The plaque was put up later. One wonders how Prime Minister Morarji Desai would have reacted if it existed then. For, in a carefully worded statement in reply to a member's recall of Savarkar's past services, Morarji Desai told the Legislative Council on April 3, 1948: "May I say, Sir, that the past services are more than offset by the present disservice?" (Debates of the Legislative Council of Bombay; Volume 14, Part 10; column 314; emphasis added, throughout).
Morarji Desai did not rewrite history. He weighed both the past and the present and pronounced against Savarkar; for good reason. He had, as Home Minister of the then Bombay Province, assigned the investigation into Gandhi's murder to his ace police officer Jamshid D. Nagarwala, Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the CID's Special Branch. Immediately on Gandhi's assassination on January 30, 1948, suspicion of complicity in the crime fell on Savarkar. Nagarwala confided as much to Morarji Desai. Having perused the record, Union Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel told Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that Savarkar was privy to the murder. In 1970 a Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Jivan Lal Kapur, a Judge of the Supreme Court, categorically returned the same verdict on the basis of evidence which was not produced at the trial.
It is only in the last decade that details of the apologies and undertakings were published in widely read journals. True, Savarkar's ideology was a matter of record. But the halo of heroism obscured it. Opinion was divided. Very many were and still are unaware of the record. A city, a region or a State's pride in the hero it produced is understandable. To most, all that mattered was Savarkar's record upto 1911; the rest was irrelevant.
To another school, what really mattered was the ideology of Hindutva he propounded in 1923. Complicity neither in Gandhi's murder, now proven, nor in three other murders - of William Curzon Wylie, an India Office official, in 1909; A.M.T. Jackson, District Collector of Nasik, the same year; and attempted murder of Sir Ernest Hotson, acting Governor, in 1931 - was relevant. This is the stand predictably of the Sangh Parivar, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and its political front, the BJP. Savarkar with his halo was too useful an icon to let go. Regardless of his sordid record. The Sangh Parivar's partiality is as notorious as its rejection of Gandhi, which former Union Finance Minister Jaswant Singh indicated to former United States Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in strict privacy. One wishes he had the courage to express those views in public and in this country. RSS boss Rajendra Singh openly said in a press conference that "Godse was motivated by Akhand Bharat. His intention was good but he used the wrong methods" (Outlook, January 19, 1998). "Wrong methods" is a perverse euphemism to use for a heinous crime like murder, especially for the murder of the country's tallest leader. Significantly, neither the BJP nor the RSS denounces Godse to this day.
BOTH approaches are unhistorical. The record of a life must be viewed in its entirety and so must be the character and personality of the man. No one is perfect. One must weigh the blemishes and lapses in the scale with qualities of character, loftiness of vision and the quality of achievement. A great Indian and Maharashtrian, B.R. Ambedkar, did precisely such an exercise, in his famous lectures in 1943 published under the title Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah, with copious quotations on what constitutes greatness in a public figure. "Who can be called a Great Man?" he asked and replied: "A man is Great because he finds a way to save Society in its hour of crisis... He can do so only with the help of intellect" and sincerity of purpose. "A Great Man must be motivated by the dynamics of a social purpose and must act as the scourge and the scavenger of Society." A man who spreads hate and extols violence cannot be called "Great". Witness Hitler.
To come to the aspect of change one must ask what induced it. What was the provocation for change? Was it change of circumstances that induced the man to discard one ideology or policy and embrace its opposite later?
Does Vinayak Damodar Savarkar meet these tests? Both critics and admirers must apply them objectively to the facts and consider the record carefully. What was his concept of India's nationalism? And of its territorial integrity?
Contrast the record on these two crucial issues of two personalities and the truth emerges in its stark, undeniable reality. On January 5, 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru criticised communalism, be it of the majority or of a minority community. He added, however, that while the communalism of the minority becomes obvious, "the communalism of a majority community is apt to be taken for nationalism". Compare this with Savarkar's remarks to a students gathering in Kanpur. "What is called Nationalism can be defined as in fact the National communalism of the majority community which has been ruling and still aspires to rule this country. Thus, in Hindusthan it is the Hindus, professing Hindu religion and being in overwhelming majority, that constitute the National community and create and formulate the Nationalism of the Nation."
The divide is deep and fundamental. The inference is as clear - you cannot admire both. A choice must be made. The BJP is more consistent than Congress leaders who profess admiration for Savarkar for political ends. This is no way to defend secularism against the BJP's Savarkarite onslaught.
Logically enough, Savarkar rejected the national flag which the Constituent Assembly of India approved on July 29, 1947: "It can never be recognised as the National Flag of Hindusthan ... the authoritative flag of Hindusthan our Motherland and Holyland, ... can be no other than the Bhagava (saffron flag)... . to deliver expressly the message of the very Being of our Race... . It mirrors the whole panorama of our Hindu History. ... Hindudom at any rate can loyally salute no other Flag but this Pan-Hindu Dhwaja, this Bhagava Flag as its national Standard." The question must be faced honestly - can a person who speaks thus be regarded as an Indian nationalist, still less a national hero.
Consider another test, India's territorial integrity. Little do we realise the debt we owe to Nehru for his timely and successful attack on a British plan for transfer of power directly to each of the Provinces of British India leaving it to them to decide whether to form a Union or not. Nehru demanded and obtained transfer of power directly to the Union of India, as such. As for the Princely States, Nehru was categorical - the ruler must decide on accession only in accordance with the will of the people. At Simla on the night of May 10, 1947, Mountbatten showed Nehru in confidence the plan he had received from London for transfer of power to the Provinces and the States. Nehru exploded in wrath. His vehement rejection altered history. The June 3 Plan provided for transfer of power to the Union of India (The Transfer of Power in India by V.P. Menon; 1957; page 361).
Contrast this with Savarkar's line. It would have led to the Balkanisation of India. C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar was, for all his admirable gifts, one of the most repressive Dewans of an Indian State and one who was the most detested by its people. He was brutal and unprincipled. As Dewan of Travancore he plotted secretly to declare it independent of India and carried out his long prepared plot by announcing on June 11, 1947, the State's decision to declare itself independent once the British quit India (vide "C.P. and independent Travancore", Frontline, July 4, 2003). The people whom he had subjected to brutal repression were dead against this course. C.P. even appointed a representative to Pakistan. Jinnah welcomed this move in a cable dated June 20, 1947. That very day C.P. received a cable from Savarkar. He enthusiastically supported "the far-sighted and courageous determination to declare the independence of our Hindu State of Travancore". It is not difficult to visualise the impact on India's unity if other princes had followed this course. Fortunately, Travancore acceded to India and C.P. had to quit the State. This is the "nationalist" whom the Sangh Parivar lauds today.
The BJP is, of course, perfectly entitled to make the most of the encomiums showered on Savarkar by politicians from Indira Gandhi downwards; thoughtlessly and opportunistically. Memories of his crimes had faded. The Indian state had become soft on Hindu communalism. Streets were named after him and statues raised in his honour. Since Savarkar was not then an issue, nobody cared to look at the record. Once Vajpayee and Advani raised "the issue of Savarkar" - his place in India's history - people began to dig up the records. Creditably, Sonia Gandhi strongly objected to the unveiling of his portrait in the Central Hall of Parliament facing that of the man he had conspired to murder - Gandhi. Her letter of February 24, 2003 to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam merits high praise.
At no time, however, did the world of scholarship accept Savarkar's credentials either to Indian nationalism or to greatness. This is true of India as well as foreign scholarship.
What R.K. Dasgupta, an eminent scholar and former Director of the National Library of India, wrote of him last year deserves to be quoted in extenso: "But in what sense is Savarkar a national figure? And why should it take 56 years after our attainment of national freedom to realise that Savarkar was a national figure? Which historian of India has called Savarkar a national figure? He has no presence in the serious political and historical literature of our country. There is no mention of Savarkar in the 945-page Oxford History of India published in 1958. Nehru does not mention him in his Autobiography and Subhas Chandra Bose too does not mention him in his two autobiographies. There is not a word on him in R.C. Majumdar, Hemchandra Raychaudhuri and Kalikinkar Datta's 1,122-page An Advanced History of India published in 1946. There is not even a passing reference to Savarkar in the 940-page The Role of Honour: Anecdotes of Indian Martyrs edited by K.C. Ghosh and published by the National Council of Education in 2002.
"Savarkar has, however, a strong presence in our books on communalism, an instance of which is David Ludden's Making India Hindu (1996). In this work, Richard H. Davis calls him `the ideological progenitor of the RSS'. In the same work another authority on our modern political history calls him a propagandist of the doctrine of Hindutva. How then is Savarkar a national figure? When the BJP has a majority in our Parliament, God forbid it, we will see portraits of Keshab Baliram Hedgewar who founded the RSS in 1925 and M.S. Golwalkar who succeeded him as the head of the Hindu Organisation in 1940. If the BJP becomes all-powerful we may have a marble statue of Nathuram Godse in the Central Hall of Parliament. Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi [on] 30 January 1948, as Narendra Modi destroyed Gandhism in Gujarat which is now a BJP State.
"Savarkar is the father of Hindu communalism and has the distinction of spelling out the two-nation theory about two decades before Jinnah. We can now accuse Savarkar of subverting, through his doctrine of Hindutva, the ideological foundation of our 3,000-year tradition as interpreted by Sri Ramakrishna, Bankim, Vivekananda, Rabindranath, Sri Aurobindo and others. The portrait of the philosopher of Hindutva has virtually tarred with a large brush the other portraits which so long gave a moral spiritual lustre to the hall of Parliament." As Savarkar himself emphasised, Hindutva is different from Hinduism. It is a political ideology forged in modern times in antithesis to the ancient and noble faith of Hinduism. Savarkar scorned religion as such. He was an atheist.
In his recently published work, a Swedish scholar Henrik Berglund exposes the Sangh Parivar's thesis on "cultural nationalism" based on Savarkar's Hindutva: "The last requirement, and perhaps the most important in the sense of the potential for exclusion, is for the Hindu to regard India not only as his fatherland, but also his holy land. It should be noted that Savarkar always portrays the Hindu as a `he'. Savarkar not only claims that Indian Christians and Muslims cannot be regarded as Hindus, he also goes further to say that their allegiance to the country is not sincere... . the basic idea of territorial nationalism is discarded; the fact that you are living within the territory, even as a citizen, is not sufficient for membership in the nation. Not even if your family has been rooted in the same village for centuries can you become a member unless the primordially based criteria are met. Instead, you are to be regarded as a threat to the integrity of the country, since you are more attached to what Savarkar calls your `holy land'" (Hindu Nationalism and Democracy; Shipra Publications, New Delhi; pages 207, Rs.450).
This is a formidable work; meticulously researched and based on an array of Indian and foreign sources. He concludes this excellent work with a devastating exposure of the BJP's exploitation of the name of Ram, its rejection of India's "composite culture" and projection of Muslims and Christians as non-Indian. "The party shows a distinct refusal to draw a line between what has happened in the past and what is relevant for a solution of the Hindu-Muslim problems of today, but it also disregards the complexity of the Indian Muslim identity today. Within the Muslim community there is a wide range of opinions of how to relate both to the Indian state as well as to the majority community, but few support the separatist ideas claimed by the BJP to be typical of the Indian Muslim. Instead, the BJP nevertheless continues to spread these kinds of stereotypes, which in turn form the basis of its own constructions of Hindu and Muslim identities.
"Within Hindu nationalism, Hindu values and traditions are important, but they are overshadowed by the strong influences of cultural nationalism. The fascination for the idea of the nation-state, and the acceptance of it as a necessary pre-requisite for the successful development of independence, democracy and prosperity, produced the Hindu nationalist ideal of a largely unitary state. While recognising the importance of a cultural and religious identity for all individuals, the party denies the minorities the right to exercise this at a political level. Instead, the BJP argues for a mono-communitarian state, in which Hindu values, symbols and traditions form the core and demand the respect of all citizens."
THE BJP has now produced a "White Paper" of sorts on Savarkar to refute the charges against him (Swatantra Veer Savarkar: A Byword for Valour and Patriotism; BJP Central Office, New Delhi). It seeks "resolutely (to) expose Congress-Communist combines shameful attempt to insult a great hero of the Freedom Struggle." It succeeds, instead, in exposing the BJP and its icon. Like all Sangh Parivar publications, it reeks of misstatements, bad logic, bad temper and bad English.
Hoisting the saffron flag at an RSS function. Rejecting the national flag which the Constituent Assembly of India approved, Savarkar said: "Hindudom at any rate can loyally salute no other Flag but this Pan-Hindu Dhwaja, this Bhagava Flag as its national Standard."
Surely, Uma Bharati was not prosecuted for hoisting the national flag simpliciter, but for doing so in a particular place and in a particular context. Why not ask the RSS to hoist the national flag at its Nagpur headquarters? Savarkar is mentioned along with Bhagat Singh and others. But Bhagat Singh broke with his mentor, Lajpat Rai, when he turned communal and reproached his father for pleading for clemency as he faced the gallows. Savarkar's entire career was studded with repeated begging for clemency. The pamphlet makes much of politicians' praise of Savarkar, as it is entitled to, but trips badly on the record.
Savarkar was not arrested on March 11, 1910, in London "on some fabricated offences". The charges were upheld by a Bench of which Sir N.G. Chandavarkar was a member. Savarkar had instigated the murder of the Collector of Nasik district, A.M.T. Jackson who, Dr. M.R. Jayakar wrote, "was a reputed Sanskrit scholar and, it is believed, a great admirer of Indians, their language and literature". He was at a theatre to watch a Marathi play, "Sharada", when he was shot.
For all the praise, there is a significant effort in the pamphlet to distance the Sangh Parivar from Savarkar. "He also had differences with the RSS and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh." On July 15, 1949, he wired to the RSS boss Golwalkar "Hearty congratulations on your release. Long live the Sangh as the valorous champion of Hinduism".
We are told: "After his release in 1924, he spent much time in social work and literacy creation." The undertakings he gave to secure his release are not mentioned (vide "Far from heroism", Frontline, April 7, 1995).
Like all his apologies and undertakings, the one of May 9, 1925, was abject and widely worded: "That he will not engage publicly or privately in any manner of political activities without the consent of Government for a period of five years, such restriction being renewable at the discretion of Government at the expiry of the said term." He added: "I hereby acknowledge that I had a fair trial and just sentence. I heartily abhor methods of violence resorted to in days gone by, and I feel myself duty bound to uphold law and the Constitution to the best of my powers and am willing to make the reform a success insofar as I may be allowed to do so in future." Savarkar demeaned himself by submitting to a grilling by the Governor of Bombay personally in order to testify to the sincerity of his 1925 undertaking.
On his arrest after Gandhi's murder, he wrote to the Commissioner of Police on February 22, 1948: "I wish to express my willingness to give an undertaking to the Government that I shall refrain from taking party in any communal or political public activity for any period the Government may require in case I am released on that condition." He denied that he was hostile to Muslims and endorsed the concept of equality of all citizens.
On July 13, 1950, Savarkar gave an undertaking to a Bench of the Bombay High Court, comprising Chief Justice M.C. Chagla and Justice P.B. Gajendragadkar, through his lawyer K.N. Dharap that he "would not take any part whatever in political activity and would remain in his house in Bombay". On July 20, he resigned as president of the Hindu Mahasabha. Excelling these models of courage is his very petition to the British rulers on November 14, 1913: "If the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress. As long as we are in jails there cannot be real happiness and joy in hundreds and thousands of homes of His Majesty's loyal subjects in India, for blood is thicker than water, but if we be released the people will instinctively raise a shout of joy and gratitude to the government, who knows how to forgive and correct, more than how to chastise and avenge. 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. The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to parental doors of the Government?"
In the entire recorded history of mankind, is there any instance of a man who wrote repeatedly such grovelling letters to the regime of the day and yet was lauded as a national hero? Of a man who always made others wield the gun, and, when caught, begged for mercy? Of a man who conspired to kill one whom the country regards as the Father of the Nation but is himself regarded as a national hero?
THE pamphlet claims that Savarkar was "exonerated by the judge for lack of any evidence" in the Gandhi murder case. This is false. Judge Atma Charan found the approver Digambar Ramchandra Badge's evidence "direct and straight forward". But no independent corroboration was available in 1948-49. It became available only after Savarkar's death in 1966. His secretary Gajanan Vishnu Damle and bodyguard Appa Ramachandra Kasar deposed to Justice Kapur that Godse and accomplice Narayan Apte met Savarkar on January 23 or 24 on their return from Delhi well after they had met him on January 17 to which Badge was witness.
Justice Kapur's findings are all too clear. "All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group."
In his crime report No.1, the main police investigating officer, Jimmy Nagarwala, stated that "Savarkar was at the back of the conspiracy and that he was feigning illness". Nagarwala's letter of January 31, 1948, the day after the assassination, mentioned, on the strength of what Kesar and Damle disclosed to him, that Savarkar, Godse and Apte met for 40 minutes "on the eve of their departure to Delhi and that these two had access to the house of Savarkar without any restriction". In short, Godse and Apte met Savarkar again, in the absence of Badge, and in addition to their meetings on January 14 and 17. Had they testified thus in court, Savarkar would have been convicted.
Union Home Minister Sardar Patel had kept himself "almost in daily touch with the progress of the investigation regarding Bapu's assassination case. I devote a large part of my evening to discussing with Sanjevi (the top police officer) the day's progress and giving instructions to him on any points that arise". His conclusion in a letter to Prime Minister Nehru was characteristically clear: "It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through (vide "Savarkar and Gandhi", Frontline, March 28, 2003).
Advani spoke of Savarkar in the Andamans on May 4, 2002. He admitted his intellectual debt to Savarkar and his essay Hindutva: "Today, Hindutva is considered an offensive word. But we must remember that the pioneers of Hindutva like Veer Savarkar and RSS founder Hedgewar kindled fierce, nationalistic spirit that contributed to India's liberation."
This is a brazen falsehood. Savarkar met the arch imperialist Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, in Bombay on October 9, 1939 - the month the Congress asked its Ministers in the provinces to resign - and pledged his enthusiastic cooperation to the British.
Linlithgow reported to Lord Zetland, the Secretary of State for India: "The situation, he [Savarkar] said, was that His Majesty's Government must now turn to the Hindus and work with their support. After all, though we and the Hindus have had a good deal of difficulty with one another in the past, that was equally true of the relations between Great Britain and the French and, as recent events had shown, of relations between Russia and Germany. Our interests were now the same and we must therefore work together. Even though now the most moderate of men, he had himself been in the past an adherent of the revolutionary party, as possibly, I might be aware. (I confirmed that I was.) But now that our interests were so closely bound together the essential thing was for Hinduism and Great Britain to be friends, and the old antagonism was no longer necessary." A great fighter for India's freedom, indeed. This was revealed only in 2000 when Economic and Political Weekly published the Italian scholar Marzia Casolari's article based on archival research (Economic and Political Weekly, January 22, 2000).
The BJP's pamphlet claims that "he was the first Indian leader of India to daringly proclaim absolute political independence of India as her goal". Tilak used the word Swaraj in May 1897, when Savarkar was 14, and said on May 2, 1908, at Akola "Freedom is a birth right".
SAVARKAR'S book on 1857 published in 1909 was the work of a devoted Indian nationalist. He urged Hindus and Muslims to unite and "jump into the battlefield fighting under one banner and wash away the name of the English from India in the streams of blood". The book exposed his psyche - he approved of bloodletting, though never risked shedding his own blood. Years later Jayakar was repelled by his pleas at a meeting for revenge and retribution.
How did he come to write Hindutva in 1923? In 1963 he claimed that the book on 1857 was written "from the stand point of the Hindu nation". His biographer records his vandalisation of a mosque when he was 12. In one of the poems he wrote before he left for London he exhorted "organise all Hindus and unify them". But the British cease to be "the enemy"; Muslims took their place. Even his admirers do not recite objective reasons for the change. They explain it away by identifying Hindu nationalism with Indian nationalism. It was not objective conditions but changes in his personality which took him back to his roots. He never developed but remained a prisoner to a past with memories of imagined wrongs for which he sought violent revenge. Since Gandhi stood in the way, he had to be killed.
The BJP's pamphlet says "communist and communal historians, who have an ingrained habit to malign those who profess a different ideology, have made every effort to denigrate Savarkar as an `anti-Muslim' figure. A holistic study of Savarkar's writings does not support this charge. In his book 1857 - The First War of Independence, he has paid glowing tributes to Bahadur Shah Zafar and other patriotic Muslims who fought shoulder to shoulder with their Hindu brethren against the alien rulers."
Not surprisingly the documentation stops there. Not a single other writing in this vein in the 57 years from 1909 till he died in 1966 is cited. In speech after speech collected in his book Hindu Rashtra Darshan, he preached hatred towards Muslims. Analysing his two-nation theory, Ambedkar noted: "He wants the Hindu nation to be the dominant nation and the Muslim nation to be the servant nation. Why Mr. Savarkar, after sowing this seed of enmity between the Hindu nation and the Muslim nation, should want that they should live under one constitution and occupy one country is difficult to explain" (Pakistan or the Partition of India; 1946; pages 133-34). Jinnah and the Muslim League bear a heavy responsibility for spreading the poisonous two-nation theory and for the Partition. But not an exclusive one.
R.C. Majumdar, a historian partial to the Sangh Parivar, opined: "One important factor which was responsible to a very large extent for the emergence of the idea of partition on communal lines... was the Hindu Mahasabha... under the leadership of the great revolutionary leader, V.D. Savarkar" (Struggle for Freedom; Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1969; page 611).
However, as Nehru noted in his Autobiography: "Many a Congressman was a communalist under his national cloak" (page 136). We have Advani's word for that as well. He acknowledged that many in the Congress shared the Sangh Parivar's ideology even before the Partition. "There was a similar stream within the Congress even before 1947. In those days both the streams co-existed" (The Asian Age, January 4, 1998). Partition exacerbated the trend. So did the dwindling fortunes of the Congress, decades later. The veteran socialist Prem Bhasin explained why the likes of K.C. Pant drifted to the BJP.
"The ease with which a large number of Congressmen and women, small, big and bigger still, have walked into the RSS-BJP boat and sailed with it is not a matter of surprise. For, there has always been a certain affinity between the two. A large and influential section in the Congress sincerely believed even during the freedom struggle that the interests of Hindu Indians could not be sacrificed at the altar of a United Independent India. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Lajpat Rai had, for instance, actually broken away from the Congress and founded the Nationalist Party which contested elections against the Congress in the mid-Twenties" (Janata, Annual Number, 1998). Janata was founded by Jayaprakash Narayan in 1946. It continues to fight for secularism and socialism even in these times, thanks to the devoted labours of Dr. G.G. Parikh, the veteran socialist.
Lajpat Rai advocated partition of India in 1924. The issue of Savarkar conceals within it potent vials of poison which will destroy India's nationalism and its democracy unless it is exposed boldly and resolutely.
The last word must belong to Gandhi. At the famous Quit India session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on August 8, 1942, he said: "Those Hindus who, like Dr. Moonje and Shri Savarkar, believe in the doctrine of the sword may seek to keep the Musalmans under Hindu domination. I do not represent that section." This is the fundamental divide between Gandhi and Savarkar's heirs, the BJP.
(Letters to the Editor should carry the full postal address)
[ Home | The Hindu | Business Line | Sportstar
Copyright © 2004, Frontline.
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited
without the written consent of Frontline