THOUGH every record leap to light, he never shall be shamed, goes an old saying. In V.D. Savarkar’s case, every record disclosed exposes his deceit, venom and addiction to murder. He died in 1966. The next year, Gopal Godse, brother of Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram, and his co-conspirator, revealed in his book Gandhi Hatya Ani Mee (“Gandhi’s murder and I”) the close relationship between Savarkar and Nathuram which both were at pains to conceal at the Gandhi murder trial. Savarkar was acquitted by the Sessions Judge, though the approver Badge’s evidence was found to be completely reliable, only because the law required independent corroboration. That came in 1970 in the report of Gandhi’s assassination by Justice J. L. Kapur, a former Judge of the Supreme Court. He found a “conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group”. Savarkar’s bodyguard, Appa Ramachandra Kasar, and his secretary, Gajanan Vishnu Damle, did not testify in court. They spilled the beans before Justice Kapur only after Savarkar’s death. He had, besides, a mass of other evidence which was not available to the court.
In 1975, the Ministry of Education of the Government of India published a book based on archival material. Entitled Penal Settlements in Andamans, it was written by R.C. Majumdar, a historian notorious for his communal bias. He stretched everything he could in Savarkar’s favour; but he could not suppress the documents. They exposed Savarkar completely. It was the first revelation of the many abject apologies and undertakings to the government of the day which the Sangh Parivar’s icon had made throughout his career. In him it discovered an icon who reflected its values eloquently.
After his conviction for the murder of A.T.M. Jackson, Collector of Nashik district, who was “sympathetic towards Indian aspirations”, Savarkar was brought to the Andamans in 1911. This was the only murder he had conspired to commit for which he was punished. He got away with the other three Curzon-Wylie of the India Office in 1909; attempted murder of the Acting Governor of Bombay, Ernest Hotson, in 1931 (he was saved by his bullet-proof vest); and Gandhi’s on January 30, 1948. In each case, the trigger was pulled by someone else; the assassin was prodded by Savarkar.
Here is a list of the apologies and undertakings which Savarkar offered from 1911 to 1950, a heroic record of four decades for which his portrait was put up in Parliament House by his political heirs to face that of the man he had conspired to kill – Gandhi.
1. Savarkar was lodged in the Cellular Jail on July 4, 1911. Within six months, he submitted a petition for mercy.
2. In October 1913, the Home Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, Sir Reginald Craddock, visited the Jail and met Savarkar among others. His note of November 23, 1913, recorded Savarkar’s pleas for mercy. Savarkar had submitted his second mercy petition on November 14, 1913: “I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like… . Where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?”, the `revolutionary’ and `nationalist’ wrote (emphasis added, throughout). Craddock accurately recorded “Savarkar’s petition is one for mercy”. That formulation was repeated in the petitions that followed.
3. On March 22, 1920, a Savarkar supporter, G.S. Khoparde, tabled questions in the Imperial Legislative Council, one of which read: “Is it not a fact that Mr. Savarkar and his brother had once in 1915 and at another time in 1918 submitted petitions to Government stating that they would, during the continuance of war, serve the Empire by enlisting in the Army, if released, and would, after the passing of the Reforms Bill, try to make the Act a success and would stand by law and order?” The Home Member Sir William Vincent replied: “Two petitions were received from Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – one in 1914 and another in 1917, through the Superintendent, Port Blair. In the former he offered his services to Government during the war in any capacity and prayed that a general amnesty be granted to all political prisoners. The second petition was confined to the latter proposal.” Thus there was one in 1917 besides that of 1913 which is perhaps the one Vincent referred to as one of 1914; perhaps not because Savarkar referred to two others of 1914 and 1918.
4. The document published here for the first time, dated March 30, 1920, supplied an omission in the writer’s book. It is craven. He begged for “a last chance to submit his case before it is too late”. Vincent disclosed that Savarkar had recovered from dysentery five months earlier. His life was not in danger. He demeaned himself by citing cases of fellow prisoners, Aurobindo Ghosh’s brother Barin and others. “They had even in Port Blair been suspected of a serious plot.” He was the loyalist. “So far from believing in the militant school of the type, I do not contribute even to the peaceful and philosophical anarchism of a Kuropatkin [sic.] or a Tolstoy. And as to my revolutionary tendencies in the past:- it is not only now for the object of sharing the clemency but years before this have I informed of and written to the Government in my petitions (1918, 1914) about my firm intention to abide by the constitution and stand by it as soon as a beginning was made to frame it by Mr. Montagu. Since that the Reforms and then the Proclamation have only confirmed me in my views and recently I have publicly avowed my faith in and readiness to stand by the side of orderly and constitutional development.”
He added for good measure: “I am sincere in expressing my earnest intention of treading the constitutional path and trying my humble best to render the hands of the British dominion a bond of love and respect and a mutual help. Such an Empire as is foreshadowed in the Proclamation wins my hearty adherence.” So much for his nationalism.
Savarkar concluded: “I and my brother are perfectly willing to give a pledge of not participating in politics for a definite and reasonable period that the Government would indicate… .This or any pledge, e.g., of remaining in a particular province or reporting our movements to the police for a definite period after our release – any such reasonable conditions meant genuinely to ensure the safety of the State would be gladly accepted by me and my brother.”
5. The pattern of demeaning apologies and abject undertakings is reflected in all undertakings that followed including the one he gave in 1924 which was published in Frontline (April 7, 1995).
6. On February 22, 1948, to the Commissioner of Police, Bombay, in order to avert prosecution for Gandhi’s murder: “I shall refrain from taking part in any communal or political public activity for any period the Government may require.”
7. On July 13, 1950, to Chief Justice M.C. Chagla and Justice P.B. Gajendragadkar of the Bombay High Court: “… would not take any part whatever in political activity and would remain in my house in Bombay” for a year. He resigned as president of the Hindu Mahasabha.
Marzia Casolari reproduced minutes of a meeting between Savarkar and the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow, on October 9, 1939, when the `nationalist’ said “our interests were now the same and we must therefore work together”; against Gandhi and the Congress, no doubt (vide her article “Hindutva’s Foreign Tie-up in the 1930s”, Economic and Political Weekly, January 22, 2000).
Disclosures haunt his heirs also. A.B. Vajpayee’s speech on December 5, 1992, on the eve of the demolition of the Babri Masjid was published in Outlook (February 28, 2005). Maloy Krishna Dhar’s book Open Secrets, published almost simultaneously, exposes L.K. Advani’s complicity (pages 442-443).
When every record leaps to light, they shall ever be shamed.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE
HOME DEPARTMENT, AUGUST 1920.
Imperial Legislative Council.
Rejection of petition to release Savarkar.
QUESTION AND ANSWER IN THE IMPERIAL LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL REGARDING THE RELEASE OF THE SAVARKAR BROTHERS.
REJECTION OF A PETITION SUBMITTED BY V.D. SAVARKAR PRAYING FOR THE RELEASE UNDER THE AMNESTY OF HIMSELF AND HIS BROTHER.
CELLULAR JAIL, PORT BLAIR,
The 30th March 1920.
The CHIEF COMMISSIONER OF ANDAMANS
In view of the recent statement of the Hon’ble Member for the Home Department to the Government of India, to the effect that “the Government was willing to consider the papers of any individual, and give them their best consideration if they were brought before them”; and that “as soon as it appeared to the Government that an individual could be released without danger to the State, the Government would extend the Royal clemency to that person,” the undersigned most humbly begs that he should be given a last chance to submit his case, before it is too late. You, Sir, at any rate, would not grudge me this last favour of forwarding this petition to His Excellency the Viceroy of India, especially and if only to give me the satisfaction of being heard, whatever the Government decisions may be.
I. The Royal proclamation most magnanimously states that Royal clemency should be extended to all those who were found guilty of breaking the law “Through their eagerness for Political progress.” The cases of me and my brother are pre-eminently of this type. Neither I nor any of my family members had anything to complain against the Government for any personal wrong due to us nor for any personal favour denied. I had a brilliant career open to me and nothing to gain and everything to loose individually by treading such dangerous paths. Suffice it to say, that no less a personage than one of the Hon’ble Members for the Home Department had said, in 1913, to me personally, “… … Such education so much reading,… … .. you could have held the highest posts under our Government.” If in spite of this testimony any doubts as to my motive does lurk in any one, then to him I beg to point out, that there had been no prosecution against any member of my family till this year 1909; while almost all of my activity which constituted the basis for the case, have been in the years preceding that. The prosecution, the Judges and the Rowlatt Report have all admitted that since the year 1899 to the year 1909 had been written the life of Mazzini and other books, as well organised the various societies and even the parcel of arms had been sent before the arrest of any of my brothers or before I had any personal grievance to complain of (vide Rowlatt Report, pages 6 etc.). But does anyone else take the same view of our cases? Well, the monster petition that the Indian public had sent to His Majesty and that had been signed by no less than 5,000 signatures, had made a special mention of me in it. I had been denied a jury in the trial: now the jury of a whole nation has opined that only the eagerness for political progress had been the motive of all my actions and that led me to the regrettable breaking of the laws.
II. Nor can this second case of abetting murder throw me beyond the reach of the Royal clemency. For (a) the Proclamation does not make any distinction of the nature of the offence or of a section or of the Court of Justice, beyond the motive of the offence. It concerns entirely with the Motive and requires that it should be political and not personal. (b) Secondly, the Government too has already interpreted it in the same spirit and has released Barin and Hesu and others. These men had confessed that one of the objects of their conspiracy was “the murders of prominent Government officials” and on their own confessions, had been guilty of sending the boys to murder magistrates, etc. This magistrate had among others prosecuted Barin’s brother Arabinda in the first “Bande Mataram” newspaper case. And yet Barin was not looked upon, and rightly so, as a non-political murderer. In my respect the objection is immensely weaker. For it was justly admitted by the prosecution that I was in England, had no knowledge of the particular plot or idea of murdering Mr. Jackson and had sent the parcels of arms before the arrest of my brother and so could not have the slightest personal grudge against any particular individual officer. But Hem had actually prepared the very bomb that killed the Kennedys and with a full knowledge of its destination. (Rowlatt Report, page 33). Yet Hem had not been thrown out of the scope of the clemency on that ground. If Barin and others were not separately charged for specific abetting, it was only because they had already been sentenced to capital punishment in the Conspiracy case; and I was specifically charged because I was not, and again for the international facilities to have me extradited in case France got me back. Therefore I humbly submit that the Government be pleased to extend the clemency to me as they had done it to Barin and Hem whose complicity in abetting the murders of officers, etc., was confessed and much deeper. For surely a section does not matter more than the crime it contemplates. In the case of my brother this question does not arise as his case has nothing to do with any murders, etc.
III. Thus interpreting the proclamation as the Government had already done in the cases of Barin, Hem, etc. I and my brother are fully entitled to the Royal clemency “in the fullest measure.” But is it compatible with public safety? I submit it is entirely so. For (a) I most emphatically declare that we are not amongst “the microlestes of anarchism” referred to by the Home Secretary. So far from believing in the militant school of the type that I do not contribute even to the peaceful and philosophical anarchism of a Kuropatkin or a Tolstoy. And as to my revolutionary tendencies in the past:- it is not only now for the object of sharing the clemency but years before this have I informed of and written to the Government in my petitions (1918, 1914) about my firm intention to abide by the constitution and stand by it as soon as a beginning was made to frame it by Mr. Montagu. Since that the Reforms and then the Proclamation have only confirmed me in my views and recently I have publicly avowed my faith in and readiness to stand by the side of orderly and constitutional development. The danger that is threatening our country from the north at the hands of the fanatic hordes of Asia who had been the curse of India in the past when they came as foes, and who are more likely to be so in the future now that they want to come as friends, makes me convinced that every intelligent lover of India would heartily and loyally co-operate with the British people in the interests of India herself. That is why I offered myself as a volunteer in 1914 to Government when the war broke out and a German-Turko-Afghan invasion of India became imminent. Whether you believe it or not, I am sincere in expressing my earnest intention of treading the constitutional path and trying my humble best to render the hands of the British dominion a bond of love and respect and of mutual help. Such an Empire as is foreshadowed in the Proclamation, wins my hearty adherence. For verily I hate no race or creed or people simply because they are not Indians!
(b) But if the Government wants a further security from me then I and my brother are perfectly willing to give a pledge of not participating in politics for a definite and reasonable period that the Government would indicate. For even without such a pledge my failing health and the sweet blessings of home that have been denied to me by myself make me so desirous of leading a quiet and retired life for years to come that nothing would induce me to dabble in active politics now.
(c) This or any pledge, e.g., of remaining in a particular province or reporting our movements to the police for a definite period after our release – any such reasonable conditions meant genuinely to ensure the safety of the State would be gladly accepted by me and my brother. Ultimately, I submit, that the overwhelming majority of the very people who constitute the State which is to be kept safe from us have from Mr. Surendranath, the venerable and veteran moderate leader, to the man in the street, the press and the platform, the Hindus and the Muhammadans – from the Punjab to Madras – been clearly persistently asking for our immediate and complete release, declaring it was compatible with their safety. Nay more, declaring it was a factor in removing the very `sense of bitterness’ which the Proclamation aims to allay.
IV. Therefore the very object of the Proclamation would not be fulfilled and the sense of bitterness removed, I warn the public mind, until we two and those who yet remain have been made to share the magnanimous clemency.
V. Moreover, all the objects of a sentence have been satisfied in our case. For (a) we have put in 10 to 11 years in jail, while Mr. Sanyal, who too was a lifer, was released in 4 years and the riot case lifers within a year; (b) we have done hard work, mills, oil mills and everything else that was given to us in India and here; (c) our prison behaviour is in no way more objectionable than of those already released; they had, even in Port Blair, been suspected of a serious plot and locked up in jail again. We two, on the contrary, have to this day been under extra rigorous discipline and restrain and yet during the last six years or so there is not a single case even on ordinary disciplinary grounds against us.
VI. In the end, I beg to express my gratefulness for the release of hundreds of political prisoners including those who have been released from the Andamans, and for thus partially granting my petitions of 1914 and 1918. It is not therefore too much to hope that His Excellency would release the remaining prisoners too, as they are placed on the same footing, including me and my brother. Especially so as the political situation in Maharastra has singularly been free from any outrageous disturbances for so many years in the past. Here, however, I beg to submit that our release should not be made conditional on the behaviour of those released or of anybody else; for it would be preposterous to deny us the clemency and punish us for the fault of someone else.
VII. On all these grounds, I believe that the Government, hearing my readiness to enter into any sensible pledge and the fact that the Reforms, present and promised, joined to common danger from the north of Turko-Afghan fanatics have made me a sincere advocate of loyal co-operation in the interests of both our nations, would release me and win my personal gratitude. The brilliant prospects of my early life all but too soon blighted, have constituted so painful a source of regret to me that a release would be a new birth and would touch my heart, sensitive and submissive, to kindness so deeply as to render me personally attached and politically useful in future. For often magnanimity wins even where might fails.
Hoping that the Chief Commissioner, remembering the personal regard I ever had shown to him throughout his term and how often I had to face keen disappointment throughout that time, will not grudge me this last favour of allowing this most harmless vent to my despair and will be pleased to forward this petition – may I hope with his own recommendations? – to His Excellency the Viceroy of India.
I beg to remain,
Your most obedient servant,
(Sd.) V.D. Savarkar,
Convict no. 32778.
� National Archives of India
Savarkar’s Apologizing letter to British Government
The burden of his petitions: let me go and I will give up the fight for independence and be loyal to the colonial government.
Shamsul Islam, historian and former professor at Delhi University, writes in his book Hindutva: Savarkar Unmasked: “Savarkar’s nine years and ten months in the Cellular Jail did not enhance or deepen his anti-imperialistic inclinations. In fact, it ended it. The conditions in jail were indeed inhuman, but hardly any other freedom fighter in the Cellular Jail surrendered or submitted to the British [like Savarkar did].”
Savarkar had filed his first appeal for clemency on August 30, 1911, barely two months after his arrival in Andaman. “Solitary confinement meant that he was to remain inside the cell,” said Islam. “No hard or light work was allotted to him. It broke him within two months, unlike any other prisoner.” For many months, he worked in the jail’s rope-making unit, the lightest work a prisoner could hope for at Kalapani.
By November 1913, he personally submitted a mercy petition to Sir Reginald Craddock, home member of the Government of British India, who visited the jail that month. The petition, of which THE WEEK has a copy, reads thus: “I had to pass [a] full six months in solitary confinement…. From that time to this day, I have tried to keep my behaviour as good as possible…. I have 50 years staring me in the face! How can I pull up the moral energy to pass them in close confinement?” About the protests by other political prisoners, he wrote: “I should be held responsible only for my own faults and not of others… It is but inevitable that every now and then, someone will be found to have contravened a regulation or two….”……. “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 the parental doors of the Government?”……
Craddock, in a note to the governor general dated November 23, 1913, wrote: “[Savarkar] affects to have changed his views, urging that the hopeless condition of Indians in 1906-07 was his ‘excuse’ for entering upon a conspiracy… He was willing and anxious to send an open letter to the native press explaining his change of views…. He pressed me hard to give him some promise, or to record something that would give him hope.”
Savarkar filed his third mercy petition on September 14, 1914, soon after World War I broke out. “I most humbly beg to offer myself as a volunteer to do any service in the present war, that the Indian government thinks fit to demand from me,” he wrote. “I know that a Kingdom does not depend on the help of an insignificant individual like me, but then I know also that every individual, however insignificant, is duty-bound to volunteer his or her best for the defence of that Kingdom.”
Savarkar submitted his fourth petition on October 2, 1917; fifth mercy petition on January 24, 1920, and the sixth on March 30, 1920.
Savarkar had begged the British for mercy and described himself as a ”prodigal son” longing to return to the ”parental doors of the government”.
Savarkar, along with his elder brother, was finally released from the Cellular Jail on May 2, 1921. He had served nine years and ten months.
From his apology letter,
……….“Therefore 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”……..
……“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, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me in jail nothing can be got in comparison to what would be otherwise.
The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?
Hoping your Honour will kindly take into notion these points.
(From R.C. Majumdar, Penal Settlements in the Andamans, Publications Division, 1975)
Savarkar, named as a conspirator in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, was not convicted, not because of lack of evidence but because of a “technicality”.
1. Sardar Patel’s Letter
In a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru on February 27, 1948, Sardar Patel, then Deputy Prime Minister, wrote:
“It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy and saw it through.”………
2. Savarkar’s Aides Confession
Only a year or two after Savarkar’s death, his aides spoke up before the Justice J.L. Kapur Commission (was a distinguished and former judge of the Supreme Court.) on Gandhi’s murder and provided ample corroboration of Badge’s evidence. The Commission’s report notes: “The statement of Appa Ramchandra Kasar, bodyguard of V.D. Savarkar, which was recorded by the Bombay Police on 4th March, 1948, shows that even in 1946 Apte and Godse were frequent visitors of Savarkar and Karkare also sometimes visited him…. In August 1947, when Savarkar went to Poona in connection with a meeting, Godse and Apte were always with Savarkar, and were discussing with him the future policy of the Hindu Mahasabha, and he told them that he himself was getting old and they would have to carry on the work. In the beginning of August 1947, on the 5th or 6th, there was an All India Hindu convention at Delhi and Savarkar, Godse and Apte travelled together by plane. At the convention the Congress policies were strongly criticised. On 11th August, Savarkar, Godse and Apte all returned to Bombay together by plane…. On or about 13th or 14th January , Karkare came to Savarkar with a Punjabi youth and they had an interview with Savarkar for about 15 or 20 minutes. On or about 15th or 16th Apte and Godse had an interview with Savarkar at 9-30 p.m. After about a week or so, may be 23rd or 24th January, Apte and Godse again came to Savarkar and had a talk with him at about 10 or 10-30 a.m. for about half an hour…..
3. Statement of Jamshed Nagarvala, Deputy Commissioner of Police
……Justice Kapur’s findings are all too clear. After listing the information available to Nagarvala, he concluded: “ 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, Nagarvala (Jamshed Nagarvala, Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the Bombay Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) Special Branch Sections One and Two) had stated that ‘Savarkar was at the back of the conspiracy and that he was feigning illnesses. Nagarvala’s letter of January 31, 1948, the day after the assassination, mentioned that Savarkar, Godse and Apte met for 40 minutes ‘on the eve of their departure to Delhi’ on the strength of what Kasar and Damle disclosed to him. 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 (page 132).
4. Justice J.L. Kapur commission Findings
On March 22, 1965, a commission of inquiry was set up, with former Supreme Court judge J.L. Kapur as its chairman, to investigate the conspiracy in Gandhi’s assassination. The commission found that Godse was a “frequent visitor of Savarkar” and that “people who were subsequently involved in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi were all congregating sometime or the other at Savarkar Sadan and sometimes had long interviews with Savarkar”.
Kapur’s findings established that Savarkar was indeed involved in the conspiracy to kill Gandhi. Gajanan Vishnu Damle, Savarkar’s private secretary, and Appa Kasar, his bodyguard, deposed before the commission and accepted their knowledge of Savarkar’s involvement in the conspiracy to kill Gandhi. In its report, which came out in 1969, the commission concluded: “All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”
The report, however, came too late. Savarkar died on February 26, 1966, weeks after he stopped taking food and medicines.
Savarkar, Who Demands Two Nation Theory First: Divide INDIA into Two
The Delhi Historians Group said that Savarkar also propounded the two-nation theory.
In 1937, he was elected president of the Hindu Mahasabha. While addressing the 19th session of the Mahasabha in Ahmedabad, he declared: “There are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India. Several infantile politicians commit the serious mistake in supposing that India is already welded into a harmonious nation, or that it could be welded thus for the mere wish to do so…. India cannot be assumed today to be a Unitarian and homogenous nation. On the contrary, there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Muslims, in India.”
He wrote “I warn the Hindus that the Mohammedans are likely to prove dangerous to our Hindu Nation. We Hindus must have a country of our own in the Solar system.”
Thus, the theory of two nations, first proposed in Essentials of Hindutva, was passed as a resolution of the Mahasabha in 1937. Three years later, the All-India Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, adopted the concept in its Lahore session. In 1943, he declared that he “has no quarrel with Mr. Jinnah” on this subject.
Why Savarkar is not a Role Model?