Savarkar: Quit India will lead to Split India - IV
by Shreerang Godbole on 07 Jun 2016 4 Comments

To understand why Savarkar did not support the 1942 Quit India Movement, one needs to probe its background. In an article written in Harijan (18 April 1942), Gandhi suggested immediate withdrawal of the British from India. The Congress Working Committee which met in Allahabad on 29 April to 1 May 1942 considered Gandhi’s resolution on World War II which he had placed through his proxy Madeline Slade aka Mira Ben. This resolution reiterated Gandhi’s proposal that the British withdraw from India; it was opposed by both Rajaji and Nehru.


In the end, the CWC adopted Nehru’s draft resolution (Dhananjay Keer, Mahatma Gandhi: Political saint and Unarmed Prophet, 1973, p 702). Rajaji and then Congress President Maulana Azad disagreed with Gandhi’s call to the British to Quit India. In a Hindi letter written to Nehru dated 13 July 1943, Gandhi, always the bully to his followers, suggested that the Maulana relinquish the Presidentship but remain in the Committee, the Committee elect an interim President and all proceed unitedly. “This great struggle cannot be conducted properly without unity and without a President who comes forth with a hundred per cent co-operation”, wrote Gandhi. Thus, Gandhi’s Quit India proposal was seriously opposed by prominent leaders in the Congress itself. Gandhi made no efforts to secure the support of non-Congress leaders.


While asking the British to Quit India, the Congress passed another resolution on 14 July 1942 which was shockingly irrational. The resolution stated, “In making the proposal for the withdrawal of the British rule from India, the Congress has no desire whatsoever to embarrass Great Britain or the Allied Powers in their prosecution of the war, or in any way to encourage aggression on India… Nor does the Congress intend to jeopardize the defensive capacity of the Allied Powers. The Congress is therefore agreeable to the stationing of the armed forces of the Allied in India, should they so desire in order to ward off and resist and protect and keep China” (Pattabhi Sitaramayya, The History of Indian National Congress,  Vol. 2, p 342). Asking the British to keep their troops behind rendered their withdrawal meaningless.


In a statement issued on 14 August 1942 after Gandhi and other Congress leaders were arrested, Savarkar said, “The inevitable has happened; the foremost and patriotic leaders of the Congress Party, including Mr Gandhi, are arrested and imprisoned; the personal sympathies of the Hindu Mahasabhaites, and Hindus in general, go with them in their suffering for a patriotic cause... Nevertheless in as much as the Congress resolution was not framed so as to remove the serious imperfections which I had pointed out already is bound consequently to prove most detrimental not only to the legitimate interests of Hindus but to the integrity and strength of India as a nation and as a state and in as much as the policy of the Congress, as revealed by responsible leaders in their latest speeches and statements, has also only confirmed this dangerous aspect of the resolution, it is my duty to call upon all the Hindu Mabasabhaites in particular and Hindus in general not to extend any active support to this resolution in toto and abstain from any action which is meant and calculated to back up this resolution and the present policy of the Congress Party nor to take up any hostile attitude, on the other hand, so long as the Working Committee of the Hindu Mahasabha which is to meet at Delhi on August 29, does not give any authoritative lead how to safeguard and promote the interests of Hindudom as a whole under the present political situation.”


Savarkar was prepared to guarantee legitimate safeguards to minorities but was vehemently opposed to their efforts to create a state within a state. Savarkar was prepared to support the Quit India Movement if the Congress gave him an assurance to that effect. The Congress did not respond to Savarkar.


Savarkar’s militarization policy


Detractors claim that Savarkar supported the militarization policy of the British in World War II to throw a spanner in Subhas Chandra Bose’s attempts to raise the Indian National Army (INA). Their brazenness is breath-taking. The strategy seems to be to introduce downright lies and test the waters. If the charge goes unanswered, it would be repeated till it is accepted as truth.


What indeed were the relations between Savarkar and Bose? On June 21, 1940, Bose called on Savarkar at his Mumbai residence, where Savarkar advised him not to waste time in agitating for the removal of British statues like Holwell Monument in Calcutta - only to end up in a British prison during the invaluable war-time. He advocated that Subhas smuggle himself out of the country and try to reach Germany and Japan (like Indian revolutionaries during World War I) to raise an Indian Army of liberation out of PoWs.


Savarkar told Bose that he was one of the two or three individuals whom he considered capable of such valour and courage. Right from 1938, Savarkar had been in touch with Ras Behari Bose who on 28 March 1930 had established ‘Indian Independence League’ in Japan to raise an army to fight for India’s freedom. Ras Behari Bose who was also President of the Japan Hindu Sabha had laid the foundations on which Subhas Chandra Bose raised the INA. In a letter written to Savarkar dated 22 September 1939, Ras Behari expressed support for the latter’s war efforts.


When World War II broke out, Savarkar exhorted the Hindu youth to enlist in the armed forces. In his 1940 Presidential address to the HMS, he said, “None of these pseudo-moral hypothetical or problematical reasons trotted out mainly to dupe or frighten us with a view to exact unconditional and willing co-operation to British war efforts should be allowed to form the only ground on which our war policy and programme can be based. We shall of course take these reasons also into consideration but only in so far as they are likely to really affect our own national interests in a matter-of-fact way. In framing our programme so far as it lies in our power our only consideration should be how best can we take advantage of the war situation to promote our own interests, how best can we help ourselves in safeguarding and if possible even in promoting the Hindu cause.”  


He made his intentions clear enough yet again in a statement released on 6 October 1941, “If we Hindusabhaites utilise this opportunity to the largest measure possible by extending military co-operation with the British Government in a responsive spirit and measure we shall do a double service to Hindudom. The first being that we shall be able to defend our own country, hearths and homes, if we are actually attacked by alien forces from outside or by an internal anti-Hindu anarchy, secondly in addition to this immediate benefit we shall be able to press on the Hindu Militarization movement to such an extent as to secure permanently a dominant position for the Hindus in the Indian army, navy and air force wherein today the Moslems are almost monopolising and the Hindu element is woefully subordinated as a result of the criminal negligence towards and even a downright condemnation of military life which the Congress under the Gandhist lead had been guilty of. 


“Under the present circumstances, therefore, of all policies, to press on the cause of Hindu militarization is the best and the most far-sighted policy we can adopt. Let the Hindus therefore come forward now and enter the army, the navy and the air-force, the ordnance and other war-crafts factories in their thousands and millions. Let them cross the seas to give fight and to pass through the baptism of fire in all the world theatres of war, learn to use the latest weapons the world knows of and measure their swords with the bravest races of the world of today. This cannot but liberalise the social outlook of the Hindu Race, get rid materially of present economical unemployment, give a fillip to industrialization, render the Hindu military-minded, spirited and valorous and secure and stabilise the Hindu strength in Indian Military Forces of all arms.


“The latest developments and the war situation on the Western and Eastern fronts make it inevitable for the British Government to depend on India’s man power in an ever-increasing measure. An Indian army wherein millions of Hindus occupy the dominant position which their population proportion entitles them to do must prove the most effective factor not only to defend our country in this present juncture but also to further the cause of the political emancipation too of our motherland in the long run”.


Speaking at a Hindu Youth Conference on 5 November 1939 in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, Savarkar said, “First learn to wield arms. How and when to use them can be easily decided later as per the situation.”


At a public meeting in Nagpur on 13 April 1941, Savarkar said, “I am exhorting the youth to enter the armed forces to attain and defend freedom. Today, we have to get arms training and follow British orders. But I have given no assurance regarding what will happen later.”  Only a perverted mind can distort Savarkar’s intentions.   


Another blatant lie being bandied about is that Savarkar was a supporter of Hitler’s anti-Jew pogrom. Savarkar never remotely supported the Holocaust; he was probably the only prominent Hindu leader to welcome the establishment of Israel. Savarkar’s detractors do not seem to notice the inherent contradiction of alternately labeling Savarkar as a British stooge and a Nazi supporter!


Support to independent Travancore


On 20 February 1947, the British Prime Minister announced that the British Government would grant full self-government to British India by June 1948 at the latest, and that the future of Princely States would be decided after the date of final transfer was decided. While it was not clear if the British planned to devolve power to the Central or Provincial Governments, Partition was a foregone conclusion. 


In a statement dated 2 April 1947, Savarkar said, “To frustrate the vivisection of our Akhand Hindustan, we must first vivisect their Pakistan. To this end, three immediate steps are imperative. The first, the creation of a Hindu Province in West Bengal; the second, the expulsion of Moslem trespassers from it at any cost, so as to sandwich and smother the Eastern Pakistan between the two Hindu Provinces; the third, the creation of a Hindu-Sikh Province in East Punjab and to rejoin the contiguous Hindu districts in Sind to the Bombay Presidency. Thus, about ten large Hindu Provinces will get consolidated into a strongly centralized Government of Akhand Hindustan and will enable it all the more effectively to re-annex the revolting Pakistani areas too in the near future.” Savarkar refused to view the creation of Pakistan as a settled fact.


Savarkar had no faith in the willingness or ability of a Congress-led Central Government to safeguard Hindu interests; but looked upon Hindu Princely States favourably. They were his instruments to partially or completely reverse the looming Partition. In a telegram sent in reply to the invitation from the Maharaja of Kolhapur to attend his coronation ceremony, Savarkar said, “Let the heritage of Shivaji, the Great inspire him and enable him not only to meet but to forestall any anti-Hindu aggression on Maharashtra. The military and air forces of all Hindu States should immediately be raised to such a standard as to render them a bulwark of Hindudom. The future is big with great possibilities; if but Hindudom recovers its self-consciousness, we may yet regain all that is lost.”


On 11 and 18 June 1947, the Dewan of Travancore State Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar and the Maharajah respectively declared their resolve to declare Travancore as an independent State as soon as power was transferred by the British. Before pronouncing judgment on Savarkar’s support for independent Travancore, one needs to know the context. Sir CP was a staunch and progressive Hindu. He had been instrumental in abolishing the Devdasi practice and throwing open temples to Hindus of all castes, including ex-untouchables.


In a telegram dated 4 October 1945, Savarkar had complimented Sir CP for bringing all primary schools in Travancore State under Government control. For years, Christian missions had been receiving large educational subsidies from Government and utilizing them for illegitimate conversion of Hindu children. Sir CP’s move aimed at halting such conversion. In October 1946, Sir CP had put down the Punnapra-Vayalar revolt that had major Communist participation; it was meant to be a forerunner of a Communist takeover of parts or the whole of independent India.


Several Congressmen such as R. Shankar and A.A. Rahim supported an independent Travancore State. Shankar went on to become Congress member of the Constituent Assembly and Chief Minister of Kerala (1962-1964). Rahim became a Minister of State in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet and later Governor of Meghalaya. So Congressmen have no grounds to criticize Savarkar for supporting independent Travancore.


The question remains – why did Savarkar support independent Travancore? The gist of Savarkar’s message to Sir CP is as follows: “I lend my full support to the decision of the Maharajah and your good self to keep Travancore an independent Hindu Princely State in the interests of Akhand Hindustan. The Nizam has already announced his independence and other Moslem Princes are likely to follow suit. Those Hindu Princes who have sufficient courage to keep this freedom intact should forthwith come together, strengthen their military might and be prepared to resist external anti-Hindu aggression and crush internal sabotage. It is possible that the present Constituent Assembly working as it is under anti-Hindu leaders will do treachery to Hindudom and agree to more Moslem demands. In this situation, Hindu Princely States participating in the Constituent Assembly should not accept this condition of ceding to these anti-Hindu decisions of the Constituent Assembly.”  


Who can blame Savarkar if he felt that Sir CP was more likely to safeguard Hindu interests than the Gandhi-Nehru-Patel triumvirate? For Savarkar, safeguarding Hindu interests was the sole touchstone on which political positions were to be taken. To him, Hindu and national interests were synonymous. A unified, mighty Hindu nation where Hindus could live in dignity and a Hindustani State where all citizens had equal rights and obligations irrespective of caste, creed, race or religion, provided they avowed and owed an exclusive and devoted allegiance to it were Savarkar’s twin objectives. Those who are able or willing to grasp this simple fact will surely comprehend Savarkar’s Hindutva politics.


(To be continued…)

The Week(Kochi, 24 Jan 2016) carried an article making serious allegations against Veer Savarkar. In a series of articles, this author rebuts the allegations.

28 May 2016 is V.D. Savarkar’s 133rd birth anniversary; this year also marks the 50th anniversary of his atmarpan

See also

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