Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, popularly known as Veer Savarkar, was an Indian politician, activist and writer who played a key role in the Hindu nationalist movement. He was born on 28 May 1883 in Bhagur village of Maharashtra. He was a brilliant student who excelled in various fields such as law, history, poetry and philosophy.
Savarkar was a revolutionary who advocated complete Indian independence by any means necessary. He founded the Abhinav Bharat Society in 1904 to organize armed resistance against British rule. He also wrote books such as The Indian War of Independence (1909) and Hindutva (1923) that inspired generations of freedom fighters and Hindu nationalists.
Savarkar was also a social reformer who challenged caste discrimination, untouchability and religious superstitions. He promoted inter-caste marriages, widow remarriage and women’s education. He also advocated for a common civil code for all Indians regardless of their religion.
Savarkar was also a historian who wrote extensively on Indian history and culture. He challenged the colonial narratives that portrayed India as a backward and divided nation. He highlighted the glorious achievements of ancient India and its contributions to world civilization.
However, Savarkar was also a controversial figure who faced criticism from various quarters. Some accused him of being a separatist who wanted to divide India along religious lines. They pointed out his role in the Hindu Mahasabha, a political organisation that opposed the idea of secularism and advocated for a Hindu Rashtra (nation). They also blamed him for his alleged involvement in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.
Savarkar: The Apologist?
Veer Savarkar wrote several petitions to the British government between 1911 and 1914 when he was imprisoned in the Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands for his revolutionary activities. In these petitions, he expressed his regret for his past actions and pledged his loyalty to the British Empire. He also requested to be released from jail and allowed to serve the government in any capacity.
There are different views on why Savarkar wrote these petitions. Some critics say that he was a coward who apologised to the British rulers to get out of prison and that he hid this fact from his followers. Some supporters say that he never wrote such petitions or that he did not seek clemency but only better conditions in jail. Some others say that he wrote these petitions as a tactical move to escape from jail and resume his freedom struggle.
Veer Savarkar died on 26 February 1966 in Mumbai at the age of 82. His legacy remains disputed among different sections of Indian society. Some hail him as a hero who fought for India’s freedom and dignity while others condemn him as a villain who sowed hatred and violence.