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The Early Life Of Savarkar And A Long Forgotten Trust Of India’s Freedom Struggle

So in this entire stream of parallel struggle of Freedom, if we actually flip the whole Narrative of the Indian Freedom struggle and look at it from the lens of the revolutionary or armed conflict, a completely different picture emerges where, you know, 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 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 Savarkar was born in, a, Chitpavan Brahmin household. In this house in Bhagur, a small little village in Nashik District in Maharashtra, on 28 May, this very month, 1883. He was the second of three children — three boys, elder brother Ganesh rao, 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 writes to the then Viceroy of India Lord Lytton, and he says, you know what? It’s normally assumed that the British took over India from the Mughals, but actually we seem to have taken the country from the Marathas and it’s because the vast part of the country that was under Maratha, you know, control is whom they 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, you know, Civil Service, they’re part of different government bodies, but still their 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 borne out by the fact that most of the great reformers educationist, lawyers, thinkers of the time in Maharashtra, right from, you know, Gopal Krishna Gokhale to Bal Gangadhar Tilak to Chiplunkar, Vishnushashtri Chiplunkar to Ganesh Agarkar and of course Savarkar were all from this very community. Again, this little house where which is still there here and right from his childhood Savarkar actually abhorred the caste system and despite being an upper caste, So called, upper caste Brahmin boy. He always loved to mix with his friends, who were all from the lower castes and he, you know, ate with them, played with them and he was also an extremely voracious reader much beyond his age and his common, you know, pass time 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 trait. 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 this scourge of plague that ravaged different parts of the state and the British government in its whole, you know, zeal to actually control the epidemic took a very repressive measure, 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 a number of 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 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 Chapekar Brothers — the Damodar Hari Chapekar Bala Krishnahari Chapekar and his younger brother Vashudev Hari Chapekar and these people decided that they’ll pick up the gun and actually assassinate the plague officer of Pune whose name was Walter Rand and his Lieutenant Charles Ayerst.

Now, this whole, you know, assassination sent shockwaves in Bombay. People thought and Lord Temples 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 society — on the one hand the British, of course, despise them lot of Maharashtra newspapers themselves, including the Kesari actually 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 that were going on about the Chapekar. The way in which  they were taken to Gallows with a smile and with verses of the Gita on their lips, that he decided that he would go to the idol of his family deity, the Ashta Bhuja Bhavani, 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 and he made a vow in front of her in Marathi. “I will 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”. Vow, that someone made at the age of 14.

But a little did history know that the whole generation was going to face the repercussions of this one night’s vow that he took.

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