‘Savarkar is a much-maligned and misunderstood man’
A panel discussion to explore the life and times of Veer Savarkar was organised at the launch of the book Savarkar – A Contested Legacy 1924-1966, by Vikram Sampath. Published by the Penguin Random House, this is the second part of the two series book. The first book Savarkar: Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 talked about his childhood influences, political activism, Kalapani imprisonment, and eventual release in 1924.
The panelists were author Vikram Sampath and noted economist Sanjeev Sanyal. It was moderated by Shubhrastha.
Decades after his death, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar continues to uniquely influence India’s political scenario. An optimistic advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity in his treatise on the 1857 War of Independence, what was it that transformed him into a proponent of ‘Hindutva’? A former president of the All-India Hindu Mahasabha, Savarkar was a severe critic of the Congress’s appeasement politics. After Gandhi’s murder, Savarkar was charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination but was acquitted by the court.
Speaking on the occasion, Sampath said, “This is a culmination of about five years of strenuous research and work across archives and libraries both in India and abroad to bring together a holistic picture of a much-maligned and misunderstood man. I hope the discerning readers are able to read these volumes with an open mind and make up their informed opinions on Savarkar, his legacy and his importance in today’s India.”
“It is an excellent work, very well written and extremely readable. I have read the first volume, and halfway through the second volume and really enjoying it. And I would go as far as to say that these two volumes may be the best biography ever written by an Indian author,” added Sanyal.
Answering a question about Savarkar’s view on Muslims and Christians, Sampath said, “I think the problem is, I would blame the proponents as much as the opponents of Savarkar. I mean from the opponents you can’t expect any better but even those who claim to be proponents, I think, so little study is done to even understand what the man said or stood for. No one would know his views on Christians and Muslims of India, even his proponents won’t know, because they wouldn’t have read him in the original. I was quite amazed to actually discover in the course of the research a document called the Constitution of free Hindustan State, which the Hindu Mahasabha had drafted insert in 1945 five years before the actual constitution of India was drafted and in that the most ultra-right-wing party of India the Hindu Mahasabha was rooting for a secular India.
He further elaborated that the Hindu Mahasabha was rooting for a secular Hindu Rashtra, Hindu Rashtra is one where, as he mentioned earlier in the session, that the majority is not going to get any extra concessions, and the minorities are not going to get any privileges. There should not even be a ghost of suspicion in the minds of the minorities of this country that in the conceived Hindu Rashtra of India their legitimate political cultural linguistic rights would be infringed upon and if at all there is an attempt the state would intervene to remove those infringements.