As the intellectual fountainhead and founder of what is termed as “Hindu nationalism,” Vinayak Damodar Savarkar has emerged as one of the most controversial Indian political thinkers of the 20th Century. This lecture explores the lesser known role and contribution of Savarkar as a revolutionary figure and interprets the impact of his philosophy and writings on India’s revolutionary movement.
Right from his early days in Nasik, where he founded the Mitra Mela and Abhinav Bharat that galvanized revolutionary movements across Maharashtra and created contacts with counterparts in Bengal, the lecture discusses his leadership in leading the revolutionary movement in London as a law student. The coalition of Indian revolutionaries in Europe strove hard to achieve total and complete freedom for India. His works on Mazzini and the First War of Independence of 1857 created a vast intellectual corpus for revolutionary thinking in India. His associates carried on the activity even after his arrest, trial and extradition to the Cellular Jail, especially during the First World War, to get him and other political prisoners released.
This talk encompasses all these aspects of Savarkar’s stormy early life
A very Good afternoon, everyone and thank you for braving the Delhi heat and being here. I’m sorry the talk got delayed a bit. I would particularly like to acknowledge the kind presence of Lord Meghnad Desai and Lady Kishor Desai who are here today and all of you who are present. As the intellectual Fountainhead of this whole idea of Hindu nationalism about which we heard quite a bit from Dr Ratan Sharda, the someone who made the concept of Hindutva popular, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is certainly one of the most contentious political figures and thinkers of our times today.
I think even as we speak here somewhere in some political rally in some election either someone is mocking him for his so-called Mercy petitions or somebody is, you know, eulogizing him. So and in the midst of these extremes of right and left, I think history becomes a casualty this been given number of problems that that have played a study of Savarkar. One as of the Dr. Sharda eluaded in his speech. The fact that the Hindu mahasabha that Savarkar headed for the longest period of time right from 1937and the RSS had used differences on several issues and that also probably led to the fact that, in the years after Independence, in particularly after the regime change in 2014, while they have been attempts to redefine rediscover the lives of many Heroes of the past. We’re going to hear about Netaji Subash Chandra Bose after this, Sunita Ji, Bhagat Singh has been reassessed whether it’s Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. We have a film now on Lal Bahadur Sastri, we’re looking back at the historical figures out of the lenses of the monochromatic, you know ideology that we’ve been fed in the last seven decades, but somehow in the midst of all of this Savarkar has escaped a reassessment and one of the reasons for that also is the fact that most of his writings were in Marathi in which he was a prolific writer and it is a real sad fact that the lot people who have read him have hearty access the Marathi originals that he wrote. Being half of Maharashtrian myself and also with copious amount of help that I received from Savarkar’s grandson Mr Ranjit Savarkar and other friends had been able to try to put together a narrative of the man as probably never seen before trying to understand the different complexities and also humanize him in the process.
Now a person likes Savarkar cannot, you know, be compressed in a talk of one hour. He’s a man of multiple shades. So, I will limit today’s lecture to only one aspect of his very interesting and very stormy life and that is his role and contribution to the Indian revolutionary movement. And that itself would come as a surprise to many because we find it very difficult to accept anybody who’s a revolutionary outside a western Marxist kind of a lineage and here is a man who not draw his inspiration either from Marx or his ideology. But from the Italian revolutionaries, whether it was much Jeannie Gariboldi and others and also the Irish revolutionaries, but then it would not be I think exaggeration to say that any study of early Indian revolutionary moment may be incomplete without the study of Savarkar. His writings his philosophy and his contribution to it and the most important part was he probably never wielded a gun himself and his gun was his pen and the power of the pen and the use of history as a tool to actually instigate, inspire young men to the path of Revolution was what he did in his life, and which is what I shall be covering now in this talk.
Now between the first time of the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 and the very distinct Schism that developed in it of the so-called moderates and the so-called extremist, you know, we all have heard about it read about it in our history books. This sadly one parallel stream that has gone completely unnoticed and probably also unresearched and that is that of the armed conflict which was a constant buzz that was there with blips ups and downs. There were lull periods. There were, you know, huge explosions, but it constantly going on, from 1857 the uprising till 1946. The naval Mutiny in Bombay about which I think Anuj would be talking about, which would be talking about subsequently Neta ji and INA. So in this entire stream of parallel struggle of Freedom, if he actually flip the whole Narrative of the Indian Freedom struggle and look at it from the lens of the Revolutionary or armed conflict, at the completely different picture emerges where the protagonists are different, whom you call the moderates were probably called the Loyalists, whom you call the extremists probably become the Nationalist.
So history, then, you know takes a very different kind of a flavor and shade. So in the midst of this Savarkar are located himself right in the center of this long span of the parallel movement that I spoke of from 1857 to 1946 and as a protégé of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Now see Savarkar was born in Chitpavan Brahmin household, in this house in Bhagur, a small little village in Nasik District in Maharashtra on 28 May this very month 1883. He was the second of three children three boys, elder brother Ganeshrao, younger brother Narayan Rao and a sister Mayna. Now this whole chitpavan bhramin community there’s a very interesting letter that the governor of Bombay. Sir Richard Temple rights to the then Viceroy of India Lord Lytton, and he says, you know what? It’s normally assume that the British took over India from the Mughals, but actually we seem to have taken the taken the country from the Marathas and it’s because the large part of the country that was under Marathas, you know, control is whom they can ultimately defeated in the war of 1818 and took over India and the Marathas, the Peshwas belong to the family of the Chitpavan Brahmin community and Lord Temple says that whatever we do how much ever education we give them how much ever facilities we give them.
They are part of the Civil Service, they’re part of different government bodies, but still there disaffection for us will not cease. They are this militant type who will you know not give up their hatred for us. His statement was born out by the fact that most of the great reformers educationist, lawyers thinkers of the time in Maharashtra right from Gopal Krishna Gokhale to Bal Gangadhar Tilak to Vishnu Shashtri to Ganesh Rao and of course Savarkar were all from this very community. In this little house where which is still there here and right from his childhood, Savarkar actually abort the caste system and despite being an upper caste, so called upper caste Brahmin boy, he always love to mix with, his friends were all from the lower castes and he ate with them, played with them and he was also an extremely voracious reader much beyond his age and his common pastime was to read all these newspapers and books along with all of them have discussions with them.
So this sense of you know Community Living Community prospering rather than in competition with anyone was a childhood trick. Now simultaneously poetry germinated in him when he was all of eight years old and when he was six years old, he lost his mother Radha Bai to cholera and it was left thereafter to his father Damodar Pant to actually look after the four children.
Now around this time in Maharashtra, there was the scourge of plague that ravaged different parts of the state and the British government in its whole concealed to actually control the epidemic took a very repressive measures, which was those families which were detected of plague, the police would actually storm into those houses, evacuate them, women would be molested, the puja ghar would be desecrated and these people had to then be ostracized into camps, which were far away from the town. So, most of them, you know, if there was a dead rat that was found anywhere in the house. It would be kept a secret till the time it actually do nomads deaths or something come into the forefront in people get to know that plague has hit this particular family.
So this anti plague measures were so repressive that it caught caused a lot of consternation among the people who were in Maharashtra and they would three brothers who decided to take revenge for this act of the British and they were the Chaphekar Brothers, the Damodar Hari Chaphekar, Bala Krishnahari Chaphekar and his younger brother Vashudev Hari Chaphekar and these people decided that they’ll pick up the gun and actually assassinate the plague officer of Pune whose name was Walter and his Lieutenant Charles Iced. Now this whole assassination sent shockwaves in Bombay. People thought and lord Temple’s letter did seem to come true. They also belong to Chitpavan Community. They are militant not and these were all actually English educated in all of that and despite the fact they were ready to pick up arms and kill one of the British officials themselves. So it caused both kinds of reactions in Maharashtrian in society. On the one hand the British, of course despise them. Lot of Maharashtra newspapers themselves, including the Kesari denounce this as a foolhardy attempt.
Young Savarkar was just about 14 years then and he was so touched and moved by, you know, the heroic tales of were going on about the Chaphekar. That’s they were taken to Gallows with a smile and with versus of the Gita on their lips that he decided that he would go to the idol of his family deity the Ashtha Bhuja Bhawani, the 8 handed goddess Bhavani, which had come to them as family are in. This is still there in the temple of Khandoba in Bhagur or and he made a vow in front of her in Marathi. I will you know pick up my gun and fight till my end killing my enemy.
Till the Last Enemy is there and this was the seem like a very childish, you know. Wow that someone made at the age of 14, but little bit history know that the that whole generation was going to face the repercussions of this one night’s wow that he took he also composed as I said, he was a man he taken to marathi poetry being inspired by several, you know old poets like Moropant and others and he had an entire ballad written called Chaphekarranchapataka. The ballad of the Chaphekar. Which became something like a you know Yuppie kind of thing young anthem for a lot of Youth in Maharashtra even in up to the 1920s now shortly after this it was it so happened that the Damodar Pant who was the father who was in front of you know, the plague operations these literally carry these dead bodies and have been cremated because nobody would come forward to touch these, you know, plague infected corpses and in the process the Damodar pant himself contracted plague and he died and the entire, you know, the responsibility of taking care of the family fell on his younger brother who’s on his elder brother who is himself not too old Ganesh Damodar or Baba Rao and the family decided then to move away from Bhagur to Nashi and they’re in these narrow Gully and Lanes of Nashik.
What is now the Talibandeswar temple which is still there was formed India’s first organized Secret society of young revolutionaries. It was initially known as the rashtra bhakta samuha or the association of patriotic, you know people and along with sixteen-year-old Savarkar. They were two others Rao ji Krishna Phage and Triwambakar Rao who found this now the way the society was structured and Savarkar said was a voracious reader right from his childhood and a lot of the rather read the things that he read were of Western Scholars Western thinkers and Thomas Frost secret societies of European revolutionaries made a very deep impact on him. And we see that in the formation in the way this Society was also found it was a secret society and what Frost says I quote here that he had surveyed several societies which existed in Europe for almost a hundred years and written about some of the common features of these societies. He says and I quote a secret society may be distinguished from other combinations by the adoption of an oath of secrecy and Fidelity and initially ceremony and the use of symbols and passwords unquote.
So these three little boys all in their 20 age group they decided to keep the society. So secretive even even Babarao did know that such a society existed and slowly they used to have meetings that were held in different part. And this was the house the old picture of the house, you know, the top story of the house where the society is to meet and this is how it looks now. In fact Savarkar after independence give a lot of money to renovate this place and ensure that it kept in good shape. Here they would meet and have lots of discussion on various topic related to global history, the story of revolutionary the maggini and others. Slowly they realize the password and the things that were there. And the code word for the society was Rama Hari. So if someone said today Ram and Harry are going to meet that means no one will go to understand that we having a meeting. So Ram and Harry are going to meet at chai ka adda, which meant we are meeting at the office today evening.
So it again comply to the requirements that Thomas Frost had set out. Now Savarkar who suggested that they needed a kind of a dual organization and here I don’t want to make any comparisons to my the speaker who preceded me about why a dual organization is needed a front end and a back end front organization which is which is more which is more into societal Outreach which talks about cultural issues which celebrates these Shivaji Jayanti, Ganesh Utshav that Tilak had popularized in different parts of Maharashtra and these could also become the hunting grounds for all these young revolutionaries who could then be brought into the core group and then given the oath and then made into hard blooded revolutionaries. So this front end organization that was formed was known as a Mytra Mela. That was the rashra bhakta samoha.
This was the Mithra Mila the group of friends. So friends getting together having a nice discussion and then celebrating religious festivals and all of that and nobody would actually have any kind of doubts expressed about it. Now, even these the Mytra Mela topic, whatever they be the it could be about religion vedanta. It could be about General topics Savarkar somehow steer the conversation back into the topic of political freedom and armed Revolution and why it was so important so they had actually decorated. This is how the room looks from inside. They decorated the entire room with photographs of all the great Revolutionaries is right in the center. There was a big photograph of chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and then all the the great Revolutionaries Is Right from Vashudev Balantphadhake a great revolutionaries of the 1870s the Chaphekars and the 1857, you know stalwarts Lakshmi Bai Tanja Tope and Bahudarr Shah Japhar and the idea was to locate themselves as the rightful inheritors of this whole lineage of revolutionaries.
Now this to this little room as you saw it was those creaky Little Steps. It’s as bad even now though it was. So far away from the main, you know, the main road and you could hardly hear what was being discussed. They would always be I’m getting too loud. It’s a better change the topic or you know, you talk softly because they’ll be always somebody who would you know, look around the police would get alerted initially. They used to Archive. Whatever was discussed. Particularly. The non political issues religious issues so that you know, even if there’s a police raid, they would look at it and say okay, it’s just some cultural organizations nothing very, you know, the harmful and even the names of the registered members was not kept. So again, the whole strategy was very similar to that of secret societies. The objective is also kept as vague striving for the all-round development of our country, whatever that means. So this was how they operated in this little room in Nashik and here it was also important as I said these discussions of savarkar would also try to make the other members make common villagers also being nationally conscious as well as globally conscious about the kind of activities that were happening all over the world and it’s very important here to also emphasize the time.
Historical narrative has probably you know brought revolutionary movements has these mindless activity is of these, you know, fire branded radicals who conducting political assassinations throwing bombs here in there, but that was not so they had to be a sense of strategy. They had to be a strength and so thinking intellect that had to be put together and this intellectual Corpus that was provided to the Revolutionary movement was done largely by Savarkar during this time. Now at this point so in January 1902 Savarkar enrolled at the prestigious fergusson College in Pune and he moved there and it was here he composed this very famous song which I thought a little bit of it I should play. So this was almost the you know, the recreation of the Bankim Chandra Chatterjee for Maharashtra where the female nature of the nation was invoked.
This was the Swatantra Lakshmi the the murti of swatantra Lakshmi there at that particular you know room in Nashik and all their letters would start with swatrantra Lakshmi ki jay or the goddess of freedom. So that was what happened then and with which Savarkar moving to Pune the owners of running the Mytra Mela fell largely on the elder brother Babarao. And so it was very ironical. He was someone who wanted to renounce the whole family life and actually become a sannyasi under Swami Vivekananda and from there it was like hardcore revolutionary which he became and he started organizing lectures of various people in Nashik and in 1903, you know, the it was decided that they were so many members in different parts what just started in that little room they were branches that started opening in different parts of Maharashtra.
So like the Congress adhivesans and sessions that get everyone together in a conference. So the first Conference was held in 1903 in Dhule and nearly 70 members from different parts of Maharashtra attended this and the very next year in 1904 about 200 members of The Mytra Mela had actually come together and it was here that savarkar decided to change the name of the society from the Mytra Mela to Abhinav Bharat to actually obtain of our young India just on the lines of the young Italy of mazzini. And these were some of the Young Turks of the abhinav bharat all dressed up in their wonderful maharashtrian attire and it was as I said, they were these initiation is see a ceremony is that that one had to go through so there was the sword of alleged sort of Chatrapati Shivaji which one had to touch and there was a arghya of water given and then an oath was actually administer to them.
Now the Society members themselves used to destroy these oath so that nobody got to know about it, but with a lot of difficulty. I think I managed to get a copy of that original from the British library in London which is where I think everything about us with be found and this is what it reads Vande Matram salutations to the mother in the name of God in the name of Bharat mata in the name of all the matriars that have shed their blood for Bharat Mata by the love innate in all men and women that I bear to the land of my birth wherein lies the sacred ashes of my forefathers in which is the Cradle of my children by the tears of the countless mothers for their children whom The Foreigner has enslaved imprisoned tortured and killed I such-and-such convince without absolute political independence of swarajya my country can never rise to the exalted position among the nations of the earth, which is and convinced also that swarajya can never be attained except by the waging of a bloody and Relentless war against the Foreigner. I solemnly and sincerely swear that I shall from this moment to everything in my power to fight for independence and place the Lotus crown of swaraj on the head of my mother. And with this object. I joined the abhinav bharat the Revolutionary Society. All hindustan and I swear that I shall ever be true and faithful, too. This is my solemn oath and that I shall obey the orders of this body. If I betray the whole or any part of this solemn oath or I betray this organization or any other working with a similar object. May I be doomed the fate of a perjurer?
So this was the oath that all of them took and annual sessions then became a regular feature in 1905. It was held at Kuthur in 1906 in science and slowly what they also started doing was they started attending the Congress sessions in different parts in Calcutta, Surat and so on and in the day, they would appear like Congress members attain conference and slowly by night the revolution is would get together and particularly since the two main hotbeds of revolution in India. The time was Maharashtra and Bengal and Punjab came in much later, maybe after the Jallianwala Bagh incident. But yeah, but the main hot bits being Bengal the anushelan samiti the swadhin Bharat and other organization germinating in Bengal. So a lot of these abhinav bharat members started forming these alliances with them talks with them.
So the idea was again what I emphasized right in the beginning create that coordinated, you know armed rebellion disaffection in the Army and ensure that it’s a coordinated response and in the days when there was no WhatsApp groups and all that. It was only this way that you could probably get together and have this coordinated attack. So there they met people like Aurobindo Ghosh and his brother Barindranath Ghosh who were all later involved in the Alipur bomb case so soon, you know branches of Abhinav Bharat started mushrooming at Junar Bombay pain satara, Nagpur nagar Sholapur, Dhule Kolapur, Indore, Gwalior, Hyderabad and several other places. From the small little room in just a span of five year that you had an organization that had spread so far but in was one thing to start an organization, but as the leader of the organization, what was the strategy?
What was the thinking what was the purpose with which this was set? And so I think the best is Savarkar speaking himself and I shall quote here the Abhinav Bharat calls for total and complete freedom to attain which armed Revolution is an inevitable means and mind you is talking about total and complete freedom. And the time in the Congress moderates was still passing on petitions to say, you know, let us give us a little bit of an increase in judiciary little bit of all of that even Tilak was not talking about Purna swaraj as yet. But he goes on to say but was our goddess of Freedom Ashtha Bhula Bhawani Lakshmi was she a bloodthirsty and Anarchist deity. No, not at all the excess of hyper nationalism is as dangerous as the complete lack of it. I think a very important word for our times we need delebrate on the binaries of violence versus non-violence Truth Versus Falsehood nationalism and Humanity in our weekly meetings are testing Stone needs to be utilitarianism the maximum good to the maximum people, but truth is again relative. And how do we then Define? What is good? And what is bad? Well the obvious acts such as a thief going scot-free and a saint being executed is clearly bad untruth disqualification other mama and whenever the cruel exploiting Force gags, The Voice of Truth in this manner, then the forces of Justice must unite to decimate them and do that to do that secretive and strategy coming together becomes adharmic responsibility. After all Lord Krishna also grew up in stealth in nanda’s house before killing Kamsa if he had gone strictly with the truth.
He would have been killed by Kamsa demons. Similarly. Shivaji stealthily escape from Orange shapes capture secrecy per se is neither good nor bad, but what its utility is for gives it a Positive or negative character similar is the case with national struggle for the restoration of legitimate rights. So which the maximum good is possible for the maximum number of people? The struggle through violence is also a virtuous act while supporting an exploitative force that captures another’s land property and rights and destroys another’s house is Dem annoying and needs to be destroyed ruthlessly. The nation must always be good for its people unquote.
So this was the founding principle of a secret society according to Savarkar and what were the measures that he recommended that they took because that’s also important you had such a large organization 500 members spread across different parts of India. He says infiltrating the Army and the police creating a vast network of a secret Armed Force establishing contacts with revolutionaries from Russia, Italy, Ireland and other countries striking attacks on the main protagonists of British Administration having stocks of arms in the provinces and Border areas for quick deployment in case of need low-intensity rewards all the time to keep the I’m busy and diverted before a big blow can be dealt with and most importantly the will to die and to inspire others to do as well.
We also know he says that all the 30 crore Indians would not join us. But even if 2 lack brave people come and join our movement, it would suffice those who called Revolution as childish and Mindless and relied only on Survival applications must realize that their means are flawed and that can never help us achieve the goal of complete Freedom. We are just a Matchstick, but please know that if we light it we can burn down the whole edifice of a palace as has happened all over the world. So, you know a teenager with Clarity of Mind vision and purpose and leading a pack of followers in the right path. That was what he was doing now around this time in Pune. He also had the it was 1905 to the time of the partition of Bengal and it was under Savarkar advice that Tilak decided to organize first mass bond fire of foreign goods in India which was in Pune.
Abhinav Bharat speakers goes all over the town and gave fiery speeches and ensured that you know, cartloads of foreign clothes were collected and a mass bonfire was then held and the principle of fergusson college sir Raghunath purushotham paranchpe. He was an anglophile. He was in fact the first Indian to achieve the coveted title of senior Wrangler at the University of Cambridge and he was in fact known as Wrangler paranchpe and he was so exhausted that you know, one of his students had indulged in such an anti-national activity and so he rusticated Savarkar from the college. So meet to pay of fine of Rs 10. So the credit of not only organizing the first student bonfire in the country, but also facing the flag in paying the price for it, you know goes to him during this time now around this time after he finished his Bachelor of Arts and LLB be in Pune.
Tilak recommended Savarkar name to that great Colossus for Indian revolutionary Shamji Krishna Verma a great scholar who had degrees from Oxford and Cambridge in Sanskrit. He had served as Devon in several princely state. In fact, it was his ashes which Prime Minister Modi brought back to India after so many years it was there and he said till my country is free. I don’t want my ashes to be to come to a dependent country. Shamji was giving a lot of scholarships and fellowships to Young Indians particularly those of the Revolutionary bent of mind to come over to different parts of Europe, particularly, London and study there and he recommended Savarkar name and he got the fellowship and he moved to London in 1906.
This was the famous house in London called the India House and you also have the famous Blueflak of greater London council were still mention that Indian patriots and philosopher lived here. What ever we Indian called him political rally I think British still organize him as an Indian Patriots. So this india house were hot bed of some great revolutionaries in those time Lala Hardayal, VVS Aiyar, Madanlal Dhinga, Sukhsagar Dutt, Sikandar Hayat Khan and several others.
And no sooner than he reached London. He decided to start a branch of Abhinav Bharat there also and that was of course rechristened as free India society and it did quite the same kind of work and this was a complete different picture all of them in English suits compared to that maharashtrian tire that you saw some time back all of them sitting in front of the India House in London in 1906 or 7. So they held regular meetings celebrated religious festivals such as Dussera the birth and death anniversaries of great leaders, like Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, Guru nanak and all of that and several Indian students from Cambridge Oxford Edinburgh Manchester.
They all started becoming members of The free India society now within six months of reaching London Savarkar decided to access the entire Corpus of Joseph Mazzini you know, writings and translate them into marathi in there about 300 pages with a 25-page preface which he wrote now here also, I mean, it’s all in a very very coded language with it’s not a direct call to action to Indians, but using the Italian example. He gave a prescription for what Indians could do likewise in India. So princely States. They’re under Austrian, you know control they had a lack of arms to these to go to other countries smuggle arms form secret societies, learn the art of warfare and then you know execute this spread disaffection in the Army. So he just mentioned that Italy did all of this. This is what we need to do in India also, and that is how we would be able to carry on the revolution in his absence while he was in London. Now the British obviously got track of this and they prescribe this manuscript you to send back to India smuggle and send to Barbarao who published it with the manuscript was prescribed in July 1907.
Now over the next two years from 1908 to 1909. He completed his Monumental and meticulously researched work on the 1857 Uprising and it was credited to him that you know, it was first called the first war of independence till then demonized as the sepoy mutiny and this is his original writing and the original manuscript of that which I have managed to pick up from his grandson where you know, he dismissed all these Colonial arguments of you know, grease cartridge has economic motives of royal families the doctrine of lapse which was all done and he argued that it was a nationalist ideology which was what motivated the uprising and it also led to the end of hindu-muslim enemity and working towards a common cause and he says again and I quote from his work translated from marathi can any sane man maintain that an all-embracing revolution could have taken place without a principal to move it could that vast tidal wave from Peshawar to Calcutta have risen in blood without a fixed intention of throwing something by means of its Force every Revolution must have a fundamental principle a revolutionary movement cannot be based on a flimsy and momentary grievance like those grease cartridge or whatever.
It is always due to some all moving principle for which hundreds and thousands of men fight. The moving spirits of Revolution are deemed holy or unholy in proportion to the principle underlying them whether it’s beneficial or Wicked. In history the Deeds of an individual or Nation are judged by the character of the motive to write a full history of a revolution means necessarily raising all the events back to their sources the motive unquote and motives according to him, but to fold one was swarajya and swadharma for the cause of ones, you know own rule and also own protection of one’s religion both of which were under threat under the British rule. And for him, the book actually did not actually call for widespread Revolution Mayhem.
Another key or anything, but again a strategist who advised his followers strike when the iron is hot and as I said right in the beginning to give India that sense of history of her own and use that as a tool of inspiration for young revolutionaries. Now this book to I mean it has a fascinating book on History has a fascinating history of itself. So manner in which they would smuggle these to India was very wonderful. They would put them in very artistic covers with false names called The Don quick so papers the posthumous Pickwick papers and all kinds of names in false bottoms and then evading custom officials in different countries. It would finally reach India and when it came to Babarao in Sola Pur he try to get it published but somehow the British got to know the book was they hounded him the printing press refused to print it.
So he sent it back to London from there. The manuscript went to Paris where again the British got to know and then the police raided the printing presses. So then again the manuscript they decided to take it from there and take it to Germany because given the huge amount of indology influence. They thought the nagri script is something that people they would know. So but then the type press made a mess of it and so the book was the project was abandoned and it was later sent to Belgium and that was where it was, you know, finally printed and later translated and then smuggled back to India and sent to different parts of India as you know, kind of a Bible for revolutionaries. So in fact the Viceroy Lord Minto in a very terse statement says, I hope we can stop the Savarkar book on the Mutiny from entering India at any cost and he underlines that and so the British invoked several laws of the time see Customs act the post office act to ensure that the manuscript doesn’t come here because they knew the dangers that were involved in writing.
And as I said, he may not have wielded a Weapon himself the power of the pen was might’ve being mightier than the sword I think is best exemplified in his case, which is what the British were true terrified of him and wanted him eliminated at all costs now along with intellectual Corpus. There was also a lot of revolutionary work to that was done. There was Hemchandra Das on the right and his Savarkar associate senapati Bapat who he sent both of them to Paris to learn the art of making a bomb. So there was this famous bomb manual that was supposed to be doing the rounds in France. And so they want to learn and get that back to India. Now they went there that again is like an Alfred Hitchcock kind of a film where you know, they kept changing from one hotel to the other because the police were all constantly behind their backs, and they finally they were led to a Russian professor who I told them all about, you know secret societies who then led them to a Russian Taylor and imagine. Lo and behold you had a bomb manual with a Russian Taylor.
Now these guys took the manual then realize that this is all in Russian. Now, how do we read this damn thing? So then you know, there are different versions of how that was then translated one version says the Taylor himself took them to Russian ladies one of them Miss Amaya who was doing her MBBS in Berlin, so they went all the way from France to Berlin and she translated this she took her own time. She took one year to put this whole thing in these men actually waited till then to get that translated the other version. Is that senapati Bapat had a German girlfriend and her name was Anna Claus who again lived in Berlin, so irrespective of whether it was a girlfriend or it was somebody else. There was some lady in Berlin who knew Russian but who took a long time of almost a year to sit in translate these photographs. It goes almost 50 to 60 photographs which were then translated cyclo style and sent back again evade customs doing all those false bottom packages now along with this to other associates the Great Indian revolutionary ma’am Bekaji Kama about which about whom so little is known or written and Sardar Singh Rana. They represented India at the international socialists Congress, which was held on 22nd, August 1907 at Stuttgart in Germany.
Not the British tried their level best to ensure that they were not given a chance to speak at this conference, but somehow they managed to not only ma’am Kama speak, but she also unfurled openly the first flag of Indian independence, which was actually designed by Savarkar. It had three stripes green saffron and red and in the center Vande Mataram written in Gold, they were eight stars representing the states of India and also the Sun and the Moon representing the different Faith the Hindu and Muslim faiths of India. So it was like the first representative flag of all India which Savarkar design in which comma you know unfold there and total freedom.
No compromise on that is what she postulated. Now the fact that the British considered slowly they realized that you know, this is very innocuous beautiful-looking house. There was lots of things going on behind they were reports that there was a small little laboratory of bomb manufacture in the background and Savarkar himself used to come out with an apron full of picric acid and all of that, you know all over him trying to blow up a bomb and so on so they realize that something is amiss and they finally decided that we should put this place under strict surveillance. Now the way the British surveillance work to solve some very odd on the one hand, you know, you had the special branch of the Metropolitan Police in London and which took care of all these people whom they called anarkist and their counterpart in India was the the Department of Criminal intelligence or DCI and the director of which was a very important man he collected reports from all the presidency princely state and weekly reports which are sent to the Viceroy and to the Secretary of State of India.
Now these two organizations if like typical British bureaucracy never spoke to each other and so there was always loss of information loss of translation between these two organizations and but then they were spy who look around the room trying to find out. There are some who’d infiltrate the organization Maharashtrians could say I’m I want to join the free India Society, but then they would be agents who would actually carry messages back to the British. So one of the his associates MPT Acharya, you know talks about this intelligence gathering system of the British which was so flawed and I quote him again early in the morning the detectives used to stand or loiter around near the house to follow anyone who went out to the India House first, it was disgusting for me to see their faces. I wanted to make use of them as my guide. I went out for a walk about 50 yards behind me one detective followed me like my shadow I went on walking till I passed for post office then I walked back the detective was waiting for the post office to let me pass suddenly when I came in front of the post office. I asked him. Where is the post office? The man answered? I don’t know. I asked him then if you can’t help me find out the post office. Why do you follow me? He was very perturbed and angry.
I used to try the same method upon every new man that was set against me to show that I know who he was. Sometimes Savarkar and other members of the House tried to get rid of these detectives in a very peculiar manner. They walk till they came to a loan taxi and suddenly jumped into it and drove away while the detective used to stand helpless looking for another free taxi unquote now copies of this bomb manual which were procured there was sent to India along with Browning pistols, which was very rare to get in India then and these reached several revolutionaries in different parts of India Khudi Ram Bose, Satyandra Bose and this young man all of 17 Anant Lakshman in Nashik who was so fired up against the British that he decided that I’m going to you know, assassinate the district collector of Nashik KMT Jackson and it’s very poignant picture in itself because he knew that he was going to he was going to shoot him Point Blank and he knew he was going to be caught and executed.
So just two days before the assassination, he goes to the studio and get some self photographed in all wonderful attire and says and he writes behind it saying this is the last memory that my family will have of me and so it’s that was the photo in a studio in a Nashik and this there was a public, you know a reception that was organized for Jackson at the Vijaynand theater which was still there in Nashik. And when he goes there and murders him and this again creates a huge sensation and the natural suspicion falls on Babarao and the whole Abhinav Bharat there a lot of them get arrested Babarao is tried and sentenced to 25 years of life imprisonment called transportation for life to the Kalapani cellular jail in the Andaman but undeterred by all of this back in London another associate of Savarkar Madanlal Dhingra he took it upon himself that there was this the Lord Curzon Wiley who was a former British MP and he was also the person who is in charge of conducting the surveillance on the Indian students.
So let’s assassinate him and Savarkar could give him the pistol and you know told him unless you kill him and come don’t show me your face because he’d made several attempts to kill Lord Curzon and lord Model but had failed and so this was a chance that he didn’t want to leave and he finally succeeded in killing Curzon Wiley in 1909. He was put to trial and he gave this epic statement. It’s they’re all over the internet people can see the statement of Bravery which many say Savarkar wrote for him and also got it published in London newspapers.
And in fact Lala Hardayal wrote and I quote again in times to come when the British Empire in India shall have been reduced to Dust & Ashes Dhingra monument will adon the square of our chief town recalling the memory of our children the noble life noble death of one who laid down of his life in far of land for the cause he loved so well unquote.Unfortunately I don’t think anyone in India or in Indian history textbooks as you were mentioning as much of a mention of Madan Lal Dhingra at all. Now, finally the British finally realized that there was a huge movement with intercontinental , you know ramifications and this had to stopped at any cost. Now another question to ask is why did most of these people the Indian Revolution movement actually happened outside India a lot more than within India that is because the colonial laws that were so strict but clearly the Sedition laws which continue to be strictly are but not as bad as you know in these metropol of London and Paris.
So most of these revolutionaries operated from there and it was very easy to even send to buy arms and also to smuggle them. So Vijendra Nath Upadhyay and madam Kama used to send revolvers to India concealing them in toys, which were called as Christmas presents. So and then that would then be used by revolutionaries. So a huge unraveling finally the Metropolitan Police and the DCI in India started talking to each other and a lot of documentation which is available in the British Library shows that they woke up to the danger that they were facing and they realized that the main Kingpin of this whole thing with Savarkar and he was arrested in London on multiple charges including procuring and distributing arms sedition and waging of war against the Qing emperor of India now and this photograph also, I mean the way is sitting there in Royal Splendor and if not a sense of remorse on his face was taken after he was arrested the usual photos you take of prisoners where they’re all giving these blank looks but this guy had this confident look on his face saying I don’t care at all for what you’re going to do.
And so most the British also were very keen that he should be deported to India and because as I said the laws there are much stricter that they could keep him in jail for life and that is exactly what they want. Considering he was termed as a dangerous D category prisoner and Savarkar and all his associates across Europe try to ensure in always to see that, you know, he can be tried in London itself so that he could be let off because a very unfair fugitive and offenders Act was invoked against him and he was not a fugitive. He was a bona fide student would go on there on a scholarship. So on what basis are you going to you know arrest and the trail was so flimsy don’t we know now that he’s and the Browning pistol of the bomb manual the British documentation doesn’t really show it was all on the basis of inference and hearsay.
So, they thought they had a very strong case to ensure that he doesn’t get you know, he doesn’t face a go back to India, but somehow, he lost the cases in London and he was sent to India and on his way back. He was sent in this ship called the SS Maria and when even there, you know, they will strict surveillance around him. They were two guards who’d always lighter everywhere even if he had to go to the toilet. They would be two people who stand out and see with you know, when he’s coming back now, despite all this dodging all this when the ship was docked at the Port of Marseille in France this man on the pretext of going to the toilet managed to open the porthole of the toilet and jump into the sea and swam a few yards and went into French territory and then he goes there and then he finds a French sergeant and he doesn’t know French. So he says, please take me to a magistrate.
Please take me to a magistrate and by then these people have seen him jump out the British soldiers come running behind. It’s like a huge drama in itself. And then the French man doesn’t understand English. They don’t know how to communicate with each other and finally he says, okay take him. He’s a thief is all that they heard. This became huge case if international arbitration at the court at internatinal court of Justice. Just like what we are facing now with Jadhav between India and Pakishtan because Savarkar contention was that look i’m Indian citizen and i landed on French teritory. So now right to either capture me or to deport extradiet me to India is not with those british soldiers but with the French authority. So if France so he was a lawyer so he knew how to exploit its always excellent to learn and understand law because then you know what the loop hole of that art. With no offence to any lawyer who might be present here.
So he knew that this was the case but it was upto franch decide whether to let them back and the France prime minister Briyand was under immense pressure its was like France legion has been taken over by Britain and immense pressure in the parliament the govt almost came to the step of collapse. So Britain in France took the case all the way Hague. But Britain somehow managed to ensure that it have its way arm twist France and Savarkar lost the case there also and you know in the trial that was held in India called the Nashik conspirancy trial Nashik murder trial two simultaneously trial it was thre most unfair of trial first of all charges envoked on him was unfair and even the trial was unfair because it was without right to a lawyer or appeal. So even the judge used to asked him what do you have to say in self-defence he supposed you know gallantry told him that look that i dont believe in the authority of this court.
So know the outcome is fixed so there is no point in my argument and i am fine to face whatever comes on my way and the punishment that came was the maximum that was given to anybody which was two life term of imprisonment which was 50 years 25 years one life imprisonment to Kalapani in cellular jail and in fact, it is said in the court records that even then he said he supposed to have borne it with such fortitude and said that okay, finally the British also have agreed to the Indian the Hindu tradition of two life terms in reincarnation. So unhappy that I have been given two life terms of imprisonment. Now after this there lots of you know Vande Mataram which mdam Camma ran in Paris through lots of agitations in different parts of Europe for his relief, which even the you know Europeans also participated in but nothing came to any fusion and finally he was sent to the cellular jail in Andaman. This is a very very rare photograph of him on a glass the glass plate film of him actually in the prisoner attire at cellular jail. That’s a different story altogether. He faced probably one of the most inhuman, you know punishments that anyone could have six months of solitary confinement withstanding, you know constantly standing handcuffs.
So there was no human contact whatsoever his cell phase The Gallows. So every time all the all of the human contact that he had was of screaming men who were taken to the Gallows to be hanged and even basic human facilities like toilet and good food was not provided to him and also the other political prisoners of Alipur bomb case and others who were lodged at cellular jail, and you know, the food was bashii food. It had pieces of reptiles and all kinds of things there. So most of them when they ate it, they would end up with diarrhea and they were fixed times to go to the toilet in no other time you could go, you know to the toilet and if you had to go your to bribe the water and he would beat you up and all kinds of things abuse you and so most of them actually used to defecate in the their selves and you have to stand I’m sorry to narrate this but I think this country needs to know all those Joker’s who keep talking about.
You know, what were those Mercy petitions who is a patriot and who’s a covered needs to know the kind of tortures that a lot of people outside this mono Narrative of the great fighters of our freedom struggle actually both and didn’t make a huge song and dance of it. And so, this kind of treatment as I said punishing handcuffs kolhoo, which was also some the handcuffs. This will how you had to stand for six months in a row. And this thing that you see here was the kolhoo the oil grinding mill. Then here you had the man who had to do it all day and there was a stipulated weight of the oil that you had to extract and at the end of the day if you hadn’t and most of them would not 30 pounds or something of oil and if you did not extract that you were flog you were not given food. Which anyway they didn’t want to eat that food, but still you need it to sustain and even while you’re doing that and In the heat of Port Blair and Andaman where they were given these gunnysacks, you know, clothes made of gunny sacks to wear which the skin rashes, skin diseases all kinds of tortures which he and several others, Barine Gosh, Ulashkar Dutt have, breaks your heart. To actually read these things, many people either went mad. There was a Ulashkar Dutta that actually went insane. He was putting up there was a special mental Asylum that was started in island of Hado. There was Indubhusan Roy who actually committed suicide because he said death is better than this hellhole.
So this was the kind of torture that most of them face and this was his cell it was a double-ended cell where you know, entry to it was restricted and I think the most famous and those were the it is not very clear, but those were the vessels which were given to them one for daily ablutions and for the food that was given in that the rotten little Click. So when this was I think popularized recently been the Prime Minister also paid homage at this particular place. So it was after 12 long years, and I’m sure, they’ll be questions about the mercy petition. So I will not talk about it here. So after he was arrested in 1910 and in 1921, he was released from cellular jail, but taken to first Ratnagiri prison and then Yerawada jail and in 1924 he was actually released to join his family, a family portrait of Savarkar, his elder brother Ganesh, the younger brother Narayan Rao, their respective wives. The one in the centre is his sister and this is our worker’s wife Yamuna Bai.
So it was only in 1924 that he was set free, but, you know, with great conditions. That one is he would not participate in any political activities and that he would remain within the confines of the District of Ratnagiri and so between and this was supposed to be for a span of five years, but that span expanded to almost 13 years. So literally a man who was in the prime of his youth a brilliant scholar, from 1910 that he was arrested in London. He comes out into public life as the president of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937. 27 years of all kinds of structures and surveillance that one faces in various degrees. And in the meanwhile, his bachelor’s degree was revoked by the Bombay University and the British government decided to take away though. He had qualified in the law examinations. He was not called to the greys in the bench to practice. So basically, at the end of the day, on paper, he was just a metric pass. So after all the Brilliance all the scholarship that was, all that he was left to show as his achievement academically.
So, probably conclude with one of his quotes which talks about the philosophy of revolution, since this particular lecture was confined to his revolutionary aspect and not what he did in Ratnagiri and Hindu Mahasabha. Later in the Ratnagiri, like Ratan ji mentioned, the whole social reforms that were initiated in terms of Hindus Sangathan creating a Unity among the Hindu Community, the scourge of untouchability that had to be removed. He was probably the first one even before Ambedkar came to the scene to begin the whole idea of inter-caste dining for which and being an orthodox brahmin himself. He faced enormous amount of opposition from Orthodox Brahmins of Ratnagiri. When Temple entry was banned, he started his own temple for entry of all castes, which is still there in Ratnagiri called the Patit Pawan Mandir which began in 1931.
So, plethora of such things which happened, and many people do accuse that, he betrayed the revolution movement in some way, but that is not true. It is said that, do he took a wave active part because every letter, every word of his was under surveillance and the sad part, he was under surveillance both under British and immediately after Independence given, by the independent government of India because he was accused of being an accomplice in the Gandhi murder case and all his private papers are sitting here in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Every letter that came in and out is there with them because he is not to be trusted. So, he lent a lot of moral and intellectual support to the Revolutionary since it is said that he met Bhagat Singh.
And in fact, in the Nehru memorial, in a very telling and revealing interview of this Man called Durgadas Khanna, who was a congressman and he was a former member of the Hindustan socialist Republican Association of bhagat Singh and Sukhdev and others and they said that when they were interviewed, they were interviewing Durgadas Khanna, one of the questions they asked was, have you read Savarkar biography which was called life of Barrister Savarkar and also this 1857 book. So, this was almost as I said the Bible for Indian revolutionaries and it was like the entry criteria to become a revolutionary in India and it was copies of this book were found with almost all the map.
Buzz of the Lahore conspiracy case in the 1930s and a decade later in the 1940s Rash Bihari Boss and Netaji Subash Chandra Bose had an addition of this Indian war of independence actually printed in Japan. But Tamil edition of this book to which was edited by J Mani Subramanium. One of the publicity officers of Netaji was also discovered in tatters in one of the Reeds. So that’s almost three and a half decades after that book was written and brought to India with so much trouble. This served as an inspiration for the revolutionary movement in India, and that’s why what I started with that parallel movement, which you draw from 1857 uprising to the naval Mutiny of 1946. If you look at it and you pause, it’s Savarkar right in the middle as an intellectual Colossus of that. The picture is completely different from what we are taught in our history books.
So, in conclusion Savarkar own words summarized his philosophy of a revolution and its objectives and I quote whenever the natural process of national and political evaluation is violently suppressed by the forces of wrong. Then Revolution must step in as a natural reaction and therefore ought to be welcomed as the only effective instrument to retros and right, you rule as bio nets and under these circumstances. It’s a mockery to talk about constitutional agitation when no constitution exists at all. But it would be worse than a mockery even a crime and I think this is a pointer to our times. It would be a mockery given a crime to talk of revolution when there is a constitution that allows the fullest and freest development of a nation and I think this answers a lot of slogans that keep happening that when there is a constitution, you don’t have to go for a revolution only because you deny as a gun, we pick up a pistol only because you deny as light we gather in darkness to Compass, means to knock out the fetters that hold our mother down.
Now, I’d like to end again being a musician too. I’d like to end with a little bit of music now this was again you see the human side of this man after Madanlal Dingra execution. He was extremely broken and then with his friend Niranjan Pal, the son of Bipin Chandra Pal, who was with him in London, they go to the seaside of Brighton and there as he sees the ocean, he just breaks down in tears and he composes his beautiful song Sagara Prana Tadhmanla in Marathi. ‘Ocean, my soul is so shaken’ and so much of distress and he shines the ocean saying, you fooled me, you brought me to this distant land saying, I will get education. I will get all of this, but then coming here, I want to go back to my little heart of my mother which is what has been deprived. I’ve been fooled by you Sagara.
So, I thought the best way to end would be with a little clip of that again tune by Hridayanath Mangeshkar and sung by all the Mangeshkar sisters. So revolutionary with the heart of a poet.
Thank you so much for your patience hearing.