By Krishna Jha
That Savarkar had several times appealed to the British colonialists to be released and spared after being sent on lifetime transportation has been proven true by all the Maafinamas now in the public domain, but that was not all. In these letters he had not only begged for mercy, but had clearly stated that if released, he would remain loyal to the British government, which he did throughout his life. The carpet underneath had been full of skeletons, as evidenced by the letter written by Linlithgow, the longest-serving Viceroy (1936-1943), to the Secretary of State for India.
The letter is dated October 7, 1939, two days before the Viceroy met Savarkar. The account of the meeting with Savarkar was posted in the postscript on 9 October, immediately following the meeting which the Viceroy clearly regarded as important from the point of view of vested British interests in India. According to the letter, Savarkar had said, “Our interests were now the same, so we need to work together.” As if that were not enough, the letter further reveals, “The Hindu Mahasabha,” he (Savarkar) continued, “proclaimed an unequivocal undertaking of dominion status at the end of the war.” (India Office (IO), MS EUR F 125/8 1939, Letters to the Minister of India).
It was precisely when the rest of the country, including the left and Congress, demanded full freedom from the British colonialists. They argued that if the country were released, it could strive more to stop the fascist forces, and this would be of great help to the Allied forces. In contrast, Savarkar had written among the many petitions for mercy (the first had come on August 30, 1911, which was less than two months when he was taken to the mobile prison), in one he had written: “I am willing to serve government in any capacity they please because since my conversion is conscientious I hope my future conduct will be too Keeping me in prison nothing can come in what would be different Only the powerful can afford to be merciful and where can the prodigal son return but to the parental door of government?”
This promise was never violated, either in spirit or in practice. For his book, Hindutva, Who is a Hindu, was written just as the British government had witnessed the first major nationwide uprising at the call of the non-cooperative movement and was desperate to divide the Indians. Savarkar’s theory of Hindutva against the so-called enemies, the Muslims, not only promised to dissuade part of the Hindus from participating in the anti-colonial nationalist struggle, but also promised to help the British promote their “divide and rule”- policy in India. The promise of solidarity with colonial interests was not only kept alive, but further flourished when restrictions on his movements outside Ratnagiri were lifted.
Savarkar constantly set out to shape a battlefield so strategically that it could easily stage a war between the two communities of Hindus and Muslims. Shortly after becoming president of the Hindu Mahasabha in December 1937, he took the horrific political line that led to a further decline in the previously pervasive feeling of love and brotherhood. “There are two hostile nations living side by side in India,” he said at the 19th Annual Meeting of Hindu Mahasabha in Ahmedabad. “Several infantile politicians commit the grave error of assuming that India has already merged into a harmonious nation or that it could be so merged simply because of the desire to do so. […] India today cannot be assumed to be a unitary and homogeneous nation. On the contrary, there are mainly two nations: the Hindus and the Muslims in India.”
The threat was ominous and the path Savarkar had taken would have been drenched in blood and death. The Muslim League also followed suit in early 1940, just months after Savarkar met the Viceroy.
The demand for partition at the most crucial moment in the history of the Indian national movement marked a complete success of the British government’s divide and rule policy. At the time, nationalists had been in full boycott mode of the British government ever since Linlithgow declared India’s entry into World War II on 3 September 1939, without even consulting them. In protest, the congressional ministries resigned within a month. In October 1940, to counter British propaganda that India was supporting the war of its own free will, Gandhi and Congress launched an individual Satyagraha campaign. The nationalists pointed out the hypocrisy of Britain’s decision – to support the democratic forces in the war fighting the fascist forces, while still keeping India under their rule.
In contrast, Savarkar not only agreed to a promise of dominion status after the war, but in 1940 also declared his intention to participate in the executive council of the Viceroy and the War Office. outfits stood with the Imperialists. (IPA service)
The story Savarkar sided with the British authorities during the freedom movement first appeared on IPA Newspack.