Vinayak niti: Veer Savarkar’s socio-political ethics
By Shrinivas Tilak
Vinayakniti Part II (1937-)
For Part I click on:http://sookta-sumana.blogspot.com/2013/01/most-courageous-freedom-fighter-unsung.html
For Part I click on:http://sookta-sumana.blogspot.com/2013/01/most-courageous-freedom-fighter-unsung.html
Unmaking of the hero
Savarkar appeared on the radar of politicians, media personnel, and academics as soon as he entered actively in the ongoing political process in 1937 becoming the president of the Hindu Mahasabha 1937-1943. The Congress party under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948; hereafter Gandhi) and the Muslim League under the leadership of Mohamed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948; hereafter Jinnah) immediately recognized that if given a free hand Savarkar could easily become a thorn in their sides. Congressmen, Communists, Muslims, and the Untouchables therefore launched a vicious campaign against Savarkar and Hindutva. In this they were assisted by media personnel, intellectuals, and academics both Indian and Western. On February 26, 2003 as President A P J Abdul Kalam unveiled a portrait of Savarkar in the Central Hall of Parliament on February 26, 2003, the process of unmaking of the hero was complete. The function was boycotted by the entire opposition, barring former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar, at the urging of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi. What was the reason for the boycott? They did not want to honor a person who had helped in the division of the country, collaborated with the colonial authority, and conspired in the death of ‘Mahtmaji’ (report in the Indian Express online; posted on March 20, 2003.
That tradition of undermining Savarkar and his vision of Hindutva continues even today in academic circles. A Typical example is the collection of articles edited by Llewellyn (2005) referred to above. Consider, for instance, the criticism offered by Julius J. Lipner that for “extremist Hindu rightwing elements” Hinduism has a “fixed, non-negotiable meaning,” which is divisive. The purpose of the essay by Marie Searle-Chatterji is to expose the improper reification of the Hindu religion because that serves the interests of the Hindu nationalists led by Savarkar. Brian K. Smith’s objective in proposing a ‘scholarly’ definition of Hinduism is to wrest control over it from the Hindu right (see Llewellyn 2005: 6-7). For these academics (like most others) Savarkar and his interpretation of Hinduism are the arch villains solely responsible for perpetrating the crisis in Indian public life. Non-Hindu religions have had no part or role in that crisis. Each of them is concerned to define a Hinduism of his/her own creation and liking and to demonstrate why and how his/her version is better able to denounce Hindu nationalism and internationalism.
Let us consider in more detail one of the essays in the Llewellyn collection: by Julius Lipner who begins by observing that Hinduism refers to a family of religious traditions whose kinship is based on the distinctive characteristic of ‘Hinduness.’ ‘Hinduness’ denotes a particular orientation in the world, a specific way of being, a distinctive mentalite. The Sanskrit terminological equivalent of Hinduness is either hindutva or hindutā. Terminologically both mean exactly the same thing. Hindutva or Hindutā is a perfectly regular construction formed by the application of a well-known grammatical rule in Sanskrit, that is, rule 5:1.119 in the grammarian Pāņini’s magisterial work, the Aṣṭādhyāyī. Introducing the (taddhita) suffixes –tva and – tā, Pāņini comments: tasya bhavas tvatalau. This may be construed as follows: “The abstract noun formed when either the suffix –tva or the suffix –tā is added to a nominal stem denotes a state or condition as identified by than nominal stem.” For Lipner the abstract noun thus formed denotes a property. Linguistically, no implicit statement is being made about the kind of thing that the property may be. Rather, a statement is being made about a specific way of being of the property-possessor. Thus, to predicate sat-tā or ‘beingness’ of something is not, on the basis of its linguistic construction, to imply that the property ‘beingness’ is some thing; it is only to say that its property-possessor exists in a certain way, that is, really rather then [than?] notionally. Again, to say that someone has ‘blindness’ (andha-tva) is not ipso facto to make some metaphysical statement about blindness, for example, that it is a kind of thing. Rather, it is to say that the person who has blindness—that is, the blind person—exists in a certain way, the way that we understand to be identified by the use of the (Sanskrit) nominal stem for ‘blindness.’
Determining the metaphysical status of the property identified by the particular –tva or –tā suffix is a further question, a task for the philosophers. And indeed there has been a protracted and sophisticated debate in the Sanskritic philosophical tradition, between ‘Hindus’ ‘Buddists’ and ‘Jains’, about the status of properties thus denoted (Bhattacharya 1990, especially ch. 3; Matilal 1985, especially ch. 2). Similarly, to speak of hindutva/-tā is not, on the basis of the construction alone—if the spirit of Pāņini’s rule is to be followed—to make a metaphysical statement, to pronounce on the kind of thing that hindutva/-tā “’Hinduness’) might be; it is only to refer to a way of being, to an orientation or stance in the world.
Lipner claims that in the political arena in India today, the grammar of the term hindutva is being misused precisely in the way he suggested above. It is being appropriated by extremist Hindu rightwing elements to refer, apparently ipso facto, not only to a way of being, but also to a kind of thing, ‘a reality in its own right…for which followers are prepared to fight and even die, and which can be used as a weapon to bet the opponent with” (Lipner 1992, 7). And if it is used to refer to an attribute, then it is an attribute whose reality-status enfranchises the attribute-possessor and dis-enfranchises everybody else. It is for this reason that I eschew the use of hindutva for ‘Hinduness’ in this essay, and suggest, for the purpose value-neutral discourse, not only in this essay but in general, the use of hindutva for ‘Hinduness.’ Lipner claims that his purpose “is to make neither a metaphysical nor an ideological statement, but, rather, taking my cue from the term hinduta’s open-ended grammatical origins, to inquire into the kind of way of being, of life-orientation, that it seems to intimate” (Lipner 2005: 33-34). But notwithstanding this avowal, Lipner does exactly that! Lipner’s Hinduism (or rather his understanding), he claims, is superior because of its ‘insightful aversion to dogmatism’ and because it offers a ‘healthy dose of relativism’ (Lipner 1992, 2005). It does not occur to Lipner that the Hinduism of his making is not any more tolerant that the alleged intolerant Hinduism of Savarkar because it does not allow for the narrowness of the Hindu right itself. Lipner labels Savarkar’s Hinduism ‘un-Hindu.’ What an irony! There is no place for religious nationalism under the capacious canopy of the banyan tree that is Lipner’s Hinduism (see Lewellyn’s comments 2005: 15).
Concentrating on Savarkar’s alleged dark side; A.G. Noorani (2003) concludes that Savarkar was neither a hero nor a patriot. Not one phase of his chequered career reflected true grit, lofty nationalism, a noble vision, unremitting sacrifice, courage, intellectual gifts of a high order, or nobility of character. He never wielded a weapon himself goading others instead to kill while covering his tracks skillfully. Savarkar was a coward who did not die on the gallows like many true revolutionaries (Noorani 2003: 10-11). While serving his sentence in the Andamans he submitted petition after petition seeking clemency and tendering apologies for his acts in order to escape the brutal prison life (Noorani 2003: 18-21). Of course, Noorani would have liked to see Savarkar die on the gallows or rot in the prison. During World War II General Eisenhower was inspecting the allied troops when one fresh recruit proudly declared to the General that he was willing and ready to die for preserving freedom and democracy in the world. “Are you crazy,” barked back the General “Don’t volunteer to die! You force the enemy to die for his country!” Neither Barrister Jinnah nor Dr Ambedkar courted arrest; let alone die for their respective causes. Do they, for that, become cowards in Noorani’s eyes?
Paṅcatantra: a manual on ethics, polity, and statecraft (nītiśāstra)
This work on wise conduct (nītiśāstra) has become celebrated as an excellent
means of awakening young minds. It has travelled far and wide over this earth.
This is how the preamble (kathāmukha) of the Paṅcatantra speaks of itself. Its subsequent history demonstrates that this is no idle claim, but a claim amply justified. A product of the genius of Viṣņuśarman, Paṅcatantra has covered the world under many guises: translations, transcreations, and adaptations. According to Johannes Hertel, who spent many years in the study of the textual corpus of Paṅcatantra in its original Sanskrit, there are more than two hundred versions in fifty languages. The Paṅcatantra started on its ‘triumphal progress’ as a version in Pehlavi during the reign of Khosro Anushirvan (550-578), Emperor of Iran. Unfortunately, this version, as well as the original Sanskrit, are now lost. However, a Syriac version followed by an Arabic one (Kalilah wa Dimnah), made in 750 have survived and this version is the parent of nearly all the modern versions of Paṅcatantra (see Rajan 1993: xv-xvi). Paṅcatantra poses questions and problems that arise in the lives of all, princes or peasant. These are presented in real life situations that demand solutions. Thoughts and actions of saints, villains, fools, sages, rogues, decent men and women are held up in a mirror particularly in section number three entitled Of Crows and Owls dealing with six expedients in statecraft (sandhi, vigraha, yāna, āsana, samśraya, and dvaidhibhāva). Its first verse states:
Trust not a former enemy who comes professing amity. Mark! The cave thronged with owls was burned by deadly fire the crows kindled (# 1; Of Crows and Owls).
In realpolitik one should avail of four expedients: conciliation, bribes, intrigues, and (war)(sama, dama, bheda, daņḍa) and if these fail, punishment or retaliation. All issues, problems, and situations must be subjected to discriminating wisdom (Rajan 1993: xxvii).
The Paṅcatantra does not set up precepts and practices that men and women would deem impracticable in everyday life. Life is short and the obstacles many; life’s essence therefore should be grasped and mastered as a swan draws milk out of water (Anantapāram kila śabda śāstram svalpam tathāyurbahavśca vighnāh; Sāram tato grāhyamapāsya falgu hamsairyathā kśīramivāmbudhyāt (# 6; Mitrabheda). When locked in a struggle for very existence, one should resort to any means, foul or fair (i.e. without wasting time at that stage on whether the means employed are right or wrong). After you emerge victorious from the struggle some kind of atonement may be undertaken to wipe off past sins (Yenakeāpyupāyena śubhenāpyuśubhena vā; uddhateddīnamātmānam samartho dharmamācaret (# 362; Mitrabheda). Wise men take recourse to ‘strategic withdrawal’ like a ram that falls back in order to strike with a greater force (# 139; Mitraprāpti). He who takes [preemptive] action before a thing comes to pass (i.e. provides for the future by anticipating it) shines (lives successfully). He who does not provide for what is to happen, comes to grief (Anāgatam yah kurute sa śobhate; sa śocyate yo na karotyanāgatam # 192; Kakolukiya). He who speaks the truth to the detriment of his interest is a fool (# 38; Svārtham utsṛjya yo dambhī satyam brūte sa mandadhī Labdhapraṇāśa. One should not have too much greed, nor should one give up greed (just desire) altogether ( # 22 atilobho na kartavyo lobham naiva parityajet…Aprīkṣitakārakam). When the loss (or destruction) of the whole [enterprise] impends, a wise man forgoes a part of it [half] in order to save the rest [other half] (# 41; Sarvanāśe samutpanne ardham tyajati paṇḍitah; ardhena kurute kāryam sarvanāśo hi duhsah; Aprīkṣitakārakam).
Formulation of Vinayakniti II
Systematic and organized plan of action to promote and preserve Muslim separateness, conversion of Hindus to Indians, Hindusthan to India, and transformation of a Hindu national identity into the Indian national identity; formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906, ill treatment of Hindu prisoners (including Savarkar himself) by Muslim warders in the Andaman jail, the Moplah rebellion of 1921, and Gandhi’s unconditional support to the Khilaphat agitation brought about a radical shift in Savarkar’s perspective on Muslims and the need for an altogether new strategy (tantra) to deal with them. In the Andamans, Hindu prisoners suffered doubly: first from their fellow-prisoners, the Muslims and secondly from their Muslim warders (Savarkar 1950: 90-91). He concluded that Hindus have lost terribly for not playing the game which others have played (Savarkar 1950: 286). In his collected works running to eight thousand pages, therefore, one comes across a systematic attempt to rectify this problem by deploying specific measures and expedients.
Evolution of Muslim separatism
By the sixteenth century, the Muslim community in India comprised of rulers, immigrants from Afghanistan, Persia, and Central Asia, and converts from the local Hindu community. A vast majority of the converts remained untutored in the faith of Islam and on the whole had remained undistinguishable from their Hindu neighbors. During the seventeenth century, however, leading Muslim thinkers, fearful that these former converts would be re-absorbed into the Hindu sea around them, began to reassert the distinctive legal and doctrinal forms of orthodox Islam. Curiously, it was in the end the Sufis who called a halt to the syncretistic Sufi trend in Indian Islam. This movement was led by the Naqshbandi order of Sufis headed by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1563-1624). When the Muslims lost the protection the Mughal Empire had provided them after the Marathas took possession of Delhi, the Muslim turn toward internal cohesion and separation gained strength under the leadership of Shah Walyullah (1703-1762), the Delhi head of the Naqshbandi order. By the time the British emerged victorious from their battles with the Marathas, the Indian Muslims had become an organized community apart from the Hindus. In 1803, after the British had dislodged the Marathas from Delhi, Shah Abdu-l-Aziz (1746-1843), the son of Shah Walyullah, formally inaugurated a movement to reverse the worldly decline of Islam in India by issuing a fatwa declaring India to be daru-l-harb (Smith 1971: 108-109).
While the Congress party was doing a splendid job of converting Hindus to Indians, Sir Sayyad Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) carried out an equally splendid job of keeping Muslims away from joining the Congress. Founder of the Aligarh Muslim College, Sir Sayyad was also instrumental in inspiring Muslim leaders like the Aga Khan who subsequently founded the Muslim League (see below). Under its growing influence, Muslims began to resent the notion of a common Indian identity altogether. The British had taken great care to see that the Muslim solidarity as Muslims did not catch the contagion of this new Indian Nationalist cult (Savarkar 1945: 110-112). Because if the Muslims had joined the Congress as whole-heartedly as had the Hindus, then there would really emerge a united Indian nationality, a contingency likely to prove more dangerous to British supremacy in India than a Hindu revival single-handed prove to be. Accordingly, the British on the one hand encouraged and helped surreptitiously the fanatical hatred, enmity, and distrust that the Muslims had already borne against the Hindus and the Hindu nation. They thus encouraged the rise of Sir Sayyad Ahmad as the prominent leader of Muslims who would keep his brethren away from the Congress. They also helped in the founding of the Indian Muslim League in 1906 to promote Muslim solidarity and identity (as opposed to the Indian national identity). On the other hand, they encouraged the Hindus that mirage of a common Indian identity with avidity so that the rise of homogenous Hindu nation might be ruled out of practical politics (Savarkar 1945: 114).
By 1937 the mood among the Muslims had become: Muslims first, Muslims last, and Indians never! (Savarkar 1945: 118-120; Savarkar 1964: 316). During the decades for the struggle for India’s independence, most Muslims chose to sit on the fence allowing the deluded Hindus to fight in order to wrest political rights for All Indians Alike, going to the prisons in lakhs, to the Andamans in thousands and to the gallows in hundreds. When sufficient pressure was brought upon the British government compelling it to negotiate the transfer of political power around 1940s; the Muslims jumped down the fence claiming “They were Indians too demanding their pound of flesh” (Savarkar 1945: 120-121).
Hindus become Indians; Hindusthan becomes India
Once it had gained a decisive military and political control over a large part of India, the British colonial authority initiated a policy to undermine the very concept of Hindu nation amongst the new rising generation of Hindu youth by introducing a denationalizing scheme of Western education in India. The first two generations of Hindus who were products of the new education system devised by Thomas B Macaulay looked upon the British as God send and prayed for the permanence of the British raj. Fed and nurtured on Western education, culture, and thought they were simultaneously weaned from their tradition, culture, and literature. Like all other ideas and sentiments their notion of patriotism and nationhood were also borrowed readymade from England and Europe. Thus, the bond of territorial unity, the fact of residing in a common geographical unit by itself was a sufficient factor to mark out a people into a nation. Because India had become a territorial unit and a country under the British, India must also be a national unit. Since most of the first generations of students were Hindus, they thought nothing of calling themselves Indians at the same time ceasing to be Hindus. They expected others: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc also to merge themselves entirely and totally into the new identity: Indians, Indian people, and the Indian nation (Savarkar 1964 6: 311-313).
As the western education spread like wild fire through the Hindu population, the idea of an Indian identity and the Indian nation also found larger and larger following. Inversely, the sense of the solidarity with a Hindu nation and Hindu people grew feebler and feebler. The British rejoiced at the turn of events visualized by Macaulay because the only danger to their continued rule over India would come from the continued and conscious sense of the Hindu nation and Hindu identity as sought by Ram Singh Kuka in Punjab and Vasudev Balwant Phadke in Maharashtra who had led armed insurrection against the British to revive an independent Hindu kingdom as Shivaji had done. The British then helped in the establishment of the Indian National Congress to promote amongst Hindus the new identity of the Indian nation and Indian people as an antidote to any possible revival of Hindu nationalism.
Non-Hindus cling to their respective religious identities
By the beginning of the twentieth century, Hindus on the whole had rallied round the Congress with unsuspecting enthusiasm lending their honest devotion to the principle of a territorial nationality that underlay it. The same principle, however, failed miserably in appealing to the Muslims and other non-Hindu minorities in India.
Distinction between nation and state ignored
A nation is a group of people who are bound together by some or all of the following bonds or ties: religion, culture, history and traditions, literature, and consciousness of rights and wrongs done to them. Such people come to occupy a common territory and aspire to form a political unit. When a given nation realizes this aspiration, it becomes a state. A state is an administrative and governmental unit having one or more nationalities under its rule. Indians and the Congress leaders committed a serious blunder in not always making a careful distinction between a nation and a state. In modern states it is common to find different nationals living together sometimes in harmony sometimes in conflict. China, Greece, Britain, France, Hungary, Malaya, Japan and other civilized states have Muslims and/or other nationalities in their populations. But these countries are invariably named and known by the name of the nationality of their original and majority inhabitants. Why then did the Congress leaders like Gandhi and Nehru hesitated to formally recognize their country as Hindusthan and the nation Hindu?
Foundation of the All India Muslim League
On December 30 1906, the annual meeting of Muhammadan Educational Conference was held at Dhaka, Bangladesh under the chairmanship of Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk with three thousand delegates attending the session. Nawab Salim Ullah Khan presented a proposal to establish a political party to safeguard the interests of the Muslims: the All India Muslim League. The British next sponsored a Muslim delegation, led by the Aga Khan, to wait on the Viceroy Minto at a meeting wherein the Muslims told the Viceroy that democratic institutions of the western model did not suit India. They wanted that Muslims should be given special weightage in the Central and provincial councils which Minto readily agreed. A two-nation theory was implicitly recognized in the provision of separate electorates for Muslims in the Indian Councils Act of 1909. This theory (a British creation really) ignored the fact that (as Gandhi was to point out later to Jinnah) the overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims (and Indian Christians) are descendants of Hindu converts. The two nation theory, and the demand for Partition based on it were also supported by the Communist Party of India. One of its theoreticians, Dr. G. Adhikari, justified the demand for Pakistan as reflecting the aspiration of Muslim nationalities for self-determination. The same Communists, however, later accused Savarkar of echoing the two-nation theory. In August 1946 civil war was launched by Jinnah with his call for ‘direct action’, to which Muslims in Kolkata responded with large-scale killing of Hindus. This led to a chain reaction across the country, and Gandhi who had said that partition would be like vivisection of his own body acquiesced in Congress acceptance of the Mountbatten plan.
The Khilafat agtation
The Khilafat movement (1919-1924) was a political campaign launched mainly by the Muslim League in association with the Congress party under the leadership of Gandhi. At the end of World War II, areas now known as Arabia, Palestine, and Syria which previously were part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire were detached from Turkey by the Treaty of Sevres. Since Muslim holy lands were situated in these now detached areas, Muslims across the world launched the agitation to return these areas to Turkey whose Sultan also was the Khalifa, the ruler and the head of the Muslim world. In India Gandhi and other Congress leaders supported the Khilafat agitation led by Mahomed and Shaukat Ali and in return the Ali brothers promised Muslim participation in the non-cooperation movement led by Gandhi. Almost immediately, however, under the leadership of Kemal Pasha, Turkey was declared a secular state and the office of the Khalif was abolished. At about the same time Gandhi called off the non-cooperation movement and the frustrated Muslim community resumed its separatist agenda and the presumed Hindu-Muslim unity began to disintegrate fast.
The Moplah rebellion in Malabar
A series of riots broke all over India, perhaps the most serious being in the Malabar area of Kerala. The Moplahs were a community of Muslims descended from the Arabs who settled in the Malabar Coast in about the 8th or 9th century A.D and married mostly Indian wives. They had over the years acquired notoriety for insubordination under the impulse of religious frenzy. During the British rule, they were responsible for thirty-five minor outbreaks the most terrible being the one that took place in August 1921 after the Khilafat agitation fizzled out. The Moplahs declared independence (Swaraj) in the areas they controlled and in the ensuing riots the Hindus of Kerala suffered massacres, forcible conversions, and desecration of temples. Though normalcy returned toward the end of 1921, the dream of a Hindu-Muslim was shattered. In Pakistan, or, the Partition of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has insightfully elucidated the irrational length to which the Congress and Gandhi went to support the doomed Khilafat dream in order to defend and preserve their formula of Hindu-Muslim unity.
An entry of January 6, 1946 in Shyama Prasad Mookerji’s diary provides a clearer view: As seventy-five percent of the population was Hindu, and if India was to adopt a democratic form of government, the Hindus would automatically play a major role in it. Even though Hindus constituted a majority in India; it would be a political, not a communal majority that would rule India as Indians sharing power with other Indians. Gandhi and Nehru rejected this view consistently (cited in Noorani 2002: 84).
Vinayak niti II: 1937- political ethics (samājavyavasthāśāstra)
Kśehmendra had recognized that nīti is connotes the ability to frame a particular issue within a given context and then recommend a specific plan of action suitable for that particular situation during a specific period of time. This aspect of nīti is reflected in the Dāsabodha of Samartha Ramdas (1606-1682) who was a prominent saint and religious poet who was an ardent devotee of Śrī Rāma and Hanumāna. He is credited with shaping the character and career of Shivaji and hence ensuring that the Hindu Samskrṛti in Maharashtra was protected from the ravages of the Mughal onslaught. The Dāsabodha is a manual on the ethics and science of political theory and practice in which Ramdas teaches that time and conditions are not always exactly similar due to their constantly changing nature. Nor can one rule prevail for ever. If one rule alone is followed every time, difficulties arise in politics. Following Ramdas, Savarkar felt that it was necessary to adjust his political thought to suit the situation prevailing in India in the 1940s.
Toward that objective he also sought support in the commentary of Medhātithi who had tested the rules of socio-cultural and political conduct outlined in the Manusmṛti on the anvil of Cāņakya’s Arthaśāstra. Thus, to invade an enemy kingdom cannot be an immoral act in political science. It is the duty of the king to crush his enemy before he grows powerful enough to invade one’s kingdom. It is suicidal for the Aryan king to wait until the enemy gives offence. That the neighboring king is an enemy is in itself his fault. At an opportune moment, therefore, he should be pounced upon and crushed (Savarkar 1971: 195). Manu advised that a villain [or a terrorist] should be killed without the slightest compunction and without considering whether he is a preceptor or an old man or a child or learned Brahmin. On such an occasion, the killer does not incur the sin of killing because the villain is killed by his own unrighteousness (Manusmṛti 8:50). There is no sin in speaking untruth on the following occasions: during sex with a woman; in conversation with a woman; at the time of marriage; if a life is in danger; or for protecting your property (Āraņyaka 82:16). Life is superior to death, said Viśvāmitra, because dharma can only be practiced by one who is alive (jīvitam maraņāt śreyo jīvan dharmam avāpnuyāt).
The Aryadharma nowhere decrees that the Aryans should confine themselves to the boundaries of Āryāvarta. Conquer new lands and after spreading and consolidating Aryadharma there, incorporate them into Aryavarta. Savarkar remarked that taking this advice of Medhātithi, the Kalingas, the Cheras, and the Cholas sent naval expeditions to the Western, Eastern, and Southers seas carrying the Arya banner to the African coast on one side and to the Chinese on the other. During the medieval period, kings like Rajendra Chola continued to live by Medhātithi’s advice and established and maintained contacts with Hindu confederate states in Java, Indo-China, and Thailand (Savarkar 1971: 196). During the same period in North India, however, Hindu kings seem to have forsaken this wise counsel. According to Savarkar, of all the sins and weaknesses that brought about the military and political defeats of Hindus in medieval India, the greatest and most potent was the galaxy of exalted virtues: non-violence, kindness, chivalry to men and women, offering protection to the defeated enemy, forgiveness. Savarkar quoted a maxim from the Mahabharata to explain why the Hindu ethics failed so miserably in the medieval period: Any virtuous act done without the least regard to the propriety of persons involved (without a thought whether the other person deserves such a noble treatment or not) becomes a glaring vice most harmful to dharma (Śāntiparvan 36:13; Savarkar 1971: 187).
To let go the vanquished after he surrenders or begs for mercy was another virtue that Hindus in medieval India cultivated to perfection even at the cost of their own destruction. Savarkar gives two instances from India’s history from that period. The ungrateful Muhammad Ghori and the Rohila Najib Khan were set free by Prithviraj Chouhan and Dattaji Shinde respectively. How did they return the favor? The first brutally murdered his benefactor while the latter conspired against the Marathas by collaborating with Ahmad Shah Abdali who soundly routed the Marathas at the battle of Panipat in 1761. Having learnt by role the maxim: give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty, the Hindus went on giving milk to the vile poisonous snakes and vipers. Savarkar notes with anguish how Hindus in this period chose to live with this maxim:
Never pay the tormentor in his own coin but bear the torments meekly
and be patient that God will punish him (Savarkar 1971: 169).
It seems Hindus paid dearly for having forgotten the relevant maxims endorsed in the Paṅcatantra:
Whoever through sheer indifference disregards his foe, or a disease,
and lets them move unchecked will, in no time, meet his end (# 2 Of Crows and Owls).
At no cost should peace be proposed with one devoid of truth and justice;
However binding the agreement you make, inborn viciousness will in no time change his course
(# 19 Kākolūkīya).
When it is clear a foe can be contained only by recourse to the final expedient (punitive action; danda), conciliation proves a disservice: Would a wise man douse with water the initial stages of a fever that can only be sweated out? (# 21 Kākolūkīya).
Like the tortoise a wise man will retreat into his shell and suffer cruel blows; when the time is ripe he will rear up ready to strike like a deadly serpent (# 17 Kākolūkīya).
Political ethics deals with worldly wisdom, polity, and statecraft that requires an ethic based on the values of shrewdness and practical wisdom in the affairs of life. Like Viṣṇuśarman, Savarkar admonished that he, who speaks the truth to the detriment of his nation, is a fool (svārtham utsṛjya yo dambhī satyam brūte sa mandadhī Labdhapraṇāśam # 38). This honest depiction of practical wisdom in the art of life explains why in the Paṅcatantra, the cunning jackal comes out the winner in the First Book (this outraged many readers of the Paṅcatantra and so in one version the Arabic translator rewrote the end in which the jackal was jailed, put on trial and finally executed. For Savarkar, however, the Marathas came out winners in their struggle for life against the mighty Mughals by fighting a guerrilla warfare based on similar tactics.
The Paṅcatantra advises: Never trust an enemy; a ‘reformed enemy’ does not exist. The idea is an oxymoron. There is a comparable thought in the words of a character who had granted sanctuary to a person who had approached as supplicant but who later proved to be ungrateful:
Try your best to honor a rogue he will still remain true to his native nature. You may have a dog sweated, or rubbed with musk if you choose, his tail still remains curled (# 236 Labdhapraņāśa).
Deceit is the only way to overcome an unscrupulous enemy. Caste, gender or religion is no barrier to forming lasting bonds; against tyrants. Unity is strength. A character in the Paṅcatantra observes:
A host, though each member in it is weak, working united brings victory to pass. Of simple straw a rope is woven; yet with it an elephant is bound (# 330; Labdhapraņāśa).
A fool and his gains are soon parted. An intelligent man can overcome adversity by the use of his wit. The consequences of an ill-conceived and hastily executed action could be death. He who takes [preemptive] action before a thing comes to pass (i.e. anticipates and provides for the future) succeeds. This compares favorably with the Paṅcatantra:
anāgatam yah kurute sa śobhate. He who does not provide for what is to happen, comes to grief (sa śocyate yo na karotyanāgatam Kākolūkīyam # 192).
The actions and codes of conduct engaged in by historical personages discussed were proper, beneficial, and necessary in the context of the particular persons, periods, and places. They may not be so under different conditions. Accordingly, in the post-Andamans phase Savarkar began to develop an appropriate and relevant nīti comprised of practices and instruments (tantras) to reawaken what he now called the Hindu nation while shelving the dream of one world nation and government (that he had espoused in the pre-Andamans phase) as an ideal to be realized to a future date. Inspired by Savarkar proposed revised precepts (mantras) and practices (tantras) pertaining to statecraft and polity of his nīti. His revised formula for securing Hindu Muslim unity was this: If you come, with you; if you don’t, without you; and if you oppose in spite of you-the Hindus will continue to fight for their national freedom as best as they can (Trehan 1991: 102). He nevertheless did not cultivate hatred for the Christian or the Muslim and did not look down upon any one of them with scorn and contempt. “I only oppose that section of it vehemently, which is oppressive and violent towards another” (Savarkar 1950: 326).
Fazlul Huq, the chief minister of Bengal, gloated that Muslim tigers will feast on meek Hindus. Savarkar retorted: Yes as humans, Hindus are meeker than the Muslim tigers in terms of sheer physical prowess. But remember Mr Huq: It is humans that have ruled the earth for millennia confining beasts to the forests. It is the very human ring master that makes the lions and tigers dance to his tune in the circus tent and perform acrobatic feats for the entertainment of humans! Louis Fischer interviewed Savarkar in 1942. In the course of his interview Fischer asked: Why do you oppose the Muslim demand for Pakistan? “Why do you oppose a free homeland for the Negroes [Nigrostan] in the United States?” shot back Savarkar. “Because such a demand would be anti-national,” blurted the surprised Fischer. “The same rationale applies to our opposition to the creation of Pakistan,” replied Savarkar (Vartak 2003).
In his Pakistan or the Partition of India, Dr Ambedkar took note of Muslim aggressive outlook on life and matters of culture, religion, and society. The first trait he noticed was their strategy of pocketing offered concessions and coming back with more demands; the second was their skill in exploiting Hindu weaknesses and harassing them with such tactics as insisting upon their right to slaughter the cows or the stoppage of music when Hindu processions passed the mosque. The third was the resort to ‘gangsterism’ and riots in pursuit of political goals. The Congress policy, on the other hand, was to appease the Muslims by political and other concessions (Ambedkar 1976). Indeed, Gandhi never concealed his view that it was a matter of justice to give the Muslim minority whatever it wanted. “Hindus should give to Muslims whatever they asked for,” he added and that “only through such goodwill could unity be achieved” (Trehan 1991: 60). Congress ministries pandered to the Muslim demands and loaded them with weightages, posts, and positions at the cost of the interests of the national majority (Keer 286).
Historians R.C. Majumdar and Radha Kumud Mookerjee supported Ambedkar’s findings. “A fear of wounding the susceptibilities of the sister community,” wrote Majumdar, “haunts the minds of Hindu politicians and historians. It prevents them from speaking out the truth and brings down their wrath upon those who have the courage to do so.” In his Presidential address delivered at the Akhand Hindustan Leaders’ Conference, held on October 7-8, 1944 lamented the misreading of national history and politics by Indian leaders (see Trehan 1991: 45). Here Ambedkar and Majumdar seem to be one with Savarkar in his analysis of the asymmetric nature of Hindu Muslim relations in the political process and holding the Congress responsible for it. He traced the Congress failure to its erroneous supposition that India was already a nation in harmony without realizing the truth that it is not only the territorial unity but religious, historical, and cultural unity that counts in the formation of a national unit. The day the Congress led by Gandhi gave Muslims to understand that swarajya could not be won unless and until they obliged the Hindus by making a common cause with them, the Hindus rendered an honorable unity, i.e. Indian national consolidation impossible (Savarkar 1945: 122).
To instill the martial spirit among Hindus Savarkar wrote informed and insightful articles on the principles of military science using Medhātithi’s commentary on the Manusmṛti as a reference point. When World War II began Savarkar met with the Viceroy and sought from him a promise that Hindus belonging to all castes would be offered commission into the defense services whereas only certain castes, deemed to be martial, were admitted into the military previously. Toward that objective, he also wrote biographies of leading revolutionaries of his day. These included: Balmukund, Jitendranath Das, Shashimohan Day, Shriram Raju, Vishnu, G. Pingle, Veermata Kshirodavasini, and others. With the same intention, he paid rich tributes Savarkar paid rich tributes to the fallen revolutionaries: Khudiram Bose, Madanlal Dhingra, Kanhaiyalal, Chidambar Pillay, Anant Kanhere, Bacchunath Ayyasingh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Udhamsingh, Chaphekar Brothers. Once while visiting Panvel (then a small town near Mumbai), he came to learn that the widow of Vasudeo Balwant Phadke (he had led an armed rebellion against the British in the 1870s) lived alone in the town. Savarkar paid her a courtesy visit. The widow later confided that no other leader had extended such a noble gesture.
Savarkar was against sacrificing precious human life if it could be spared and he certainly was not a masochist who derived morbid gratification from self-inflicted pain and suffering a la Gandhi. Thus, he was anguished by the death of Jitendranath Das in the prison at Lahore after going on a hunger strike to protest against the treatment of political prisoners as common criminals. In a statement given to a periodical entitled Shraddhanand (May 5, 1929), Savarkar paid rich tribute to this supreme act of self sacrifice but he did not want others to follow in the footsteps of Das because it was not appropriate that precious life be wasted over a relatively minor issue thereby weakening our overall strength. Like General Eisenhower he would rather inflict maximum damage on the enemy forcing him to make ‘supreme sacrifices’ while minimizing damage to his own side. While occasional martyrdom courted by some revolutionaries is certainly laudable wasting of precious human life cannot be a recipe for victory in India’s struggle for freedom. For the same reason, Savarkar always carried on his person a concealed weapon (jambiya) for self protection. He also had engaged a permanent body guard (Mr Appa Kasar) who served him faithfully for a number of years. To his fellow inmates in the Andaman jail, Savarkar routinely exhorted to study political history, political science and political economy because when India becomes free, we will need scholars trained in these three disciplines to run the everyday affairs of the government at various levels.
In his presidential address at the annual convention of the Hindu Mahasabha in Ahemdabad in December 1937 Savarkar predicted that India will attain its political independence in the near future but in the free, undivided India Muslims are unlikely to live in peace and harmony with the majority like the Christians, Sikhs, or other minorities. When the opportunity arises they will work to establish a Muslim state in India by precipitating a civil war or by collaborating with outside powers as they had done in 1919-1921 during the Khilafat agitation. True enough, a growing anti-Hindu trend began in Kashmir in 1937 and Bengali and Oriya speaking Muslims began entering Assam in large numbers with a view to tip the demographic balance there in favor of Muslims. But Savarkar’s warning went unheeded.
On October 9, 1939 Savarkar met with Lord Linlithgo (Viceroy of India 1936-1943) regarding the war effort and India’s possible role in it. He demanded immediate dominion status for India provided there is any substance in the slogan that the allied powers are fighting to safeguard democracy in the world. Hindus must be granted representation in the political process in proportion to their numerical strength. Furthermore, recruitment into the army must be open to members of all Hindu castes. Indian troops must be used for protection of India’s security and they must not be sent overseas to fight the allied cause. Linlithgo was surprised by Savarkar’s foresight and knowledge of military affairs and mentioned it to Ramaswamy Mudaliar, a member of his advisory council. On April 23, 1939, Savarkar sent the following cable to President Roosevelt:
If your note to Hitler is actuated by disinterested action for safeguarding Freedom and Democracy from Military Aggression pray ask Britain too to withdraw her armed domination over Hindusthan and let her have free and self-determined Constitution (Savarkar 1964 6: 542).
At a conference (code named Riviera) attended by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Roosevelt, a document later known as the ‘Atlantic Charter’ was drafted and was issued as a joint declaration on 14 August 1941. This statement was drafted and agreed upon while the allies were fighting against Germany, Italy and Japan. The main purpose of the ‘Charter’ was to recruit the world’s support and sympathy for the allied war effort. The charter proclaimed that all countries of the world have the right to choose the form of government that each found suitable. The allies would therefore help all those nations whose fundamental right to choose their government has been taken away once the war was over. The Atlantic Charter was meant to act as a blueprint for promoting democracy in the world and assure its welfare after the war was won. Indeed, it later became the foundation for many international treaties and organizations that currently shape the world (The GATT for instance) and the post-war independence of British and French possessions.
Within a week of the Charter’s inception (on August 20, 1941), Savarkar sent a cable to President Roosevelt seeking clarification if the provisions of the charter applied to India. If not, India will consider the charter a mere ruse. This cable drew worldwide attention and there were questions in the British parliament to Prime Minister Churchill who was forced to admit that the provisions of the charter were applicable only to countries under the Nazi yoke. Savarkar then sent another cable to Roosevelt asking if he agreed with Churchill’s interpretation. Roosevelt failed to reply. An article in The Modern Review applauded Savarkar’s astute diplomacy in exposing the true designs of the allied powers. Subsequently in 1943-1944, two American envoys (William Phillips and Lambton Berry) met with Savarkar. It is possible that Roosevelt wised up about the evil designs of British colonial rule and possibly brought pressure on Britain to grant independence to India after the war. In his presidential address at the 22nd session of the Hindu Mahasabha held at Madura in 1940, Savarkar reminded his audience that such declarations provided an occasion for Hitler to retort when he was asked by the British Prime Minister William Chamberlain to free Poland that he would do so as soon as Great Britain freed India. He then quoted an old adage (probably from the Pancatantra) that “thieves alone can trace the footsteps of thieves best” (Savarkar 1964 6: 416).
In 1940 Savarkar had declared that “the sanest policy for us which practical politics demand is to befriend those who are likely to serve our country’s interests in spite of any ‘ism’ they may follow for themselves and to befriend them only so long as it serves our purpose” (Savarkar 1964 6: 413). On 22 June 1940, Subhash Chandra Bose came to brief Savarkar on an agitation involving the Black Hole monument in Kolkata that Bose was leading. Bose had hoped that the agitation would draw Hindus and Muslims closer and had already visited M. A. Jinnah in that context earlier that day. The ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ referred to a small dungeon where troops of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, held British prisoners of war after the capture of Fort William in 1756. The British claimed that 146 of their men and women prisoners held there died from suffocation, heat exhaustion, and crushing. A tablet erected on the site of the Black Hole to commemorate the victims had disappeared around 1822 whereupon Lord Curzon commissioned a new monument. Its presence in Kolkata became a nationalist cause célèbre when Bose began lobbying for its removal supported by the Congress and the Muslim League.
Savarkar asked him: “Why do you want to waste time in the agitation to remove this monument?” Instead of courting arrest and languishing in jail, a person of your stature should go abroad and form an army out of the Indian prisoners of war taken by Japan and attack the British from outside the India. Bose however did not listen and went ahead with the agitation and was jailed and kept under house arrest from where he made his escape. Bose eventually did what Savarkar had asked by forming the Indian National Army (INA) out of the Indian prisoners of war held by the Japanese. On 30 December 1943, the INA liberated Andaman Islands and flew the flag of Free India. Bose paid respects to Savarkar and his compatriots who had suffered in the Cellular jail (cited in Banerjee 1990: 135-136).
The wisdom of Savarkar’s policy on forming ad hoc alliances was driven home later in 1962 when Chinese troops crossed the border into India illegally occupying a small area. Indian leaders (including Nehru) were clueless as to the proper course to follow. True to his earlier declaration, Savarkar advised the government to accept the military aid from the USA. General Cariappa was inclined to consider this option but Nehru ruled him out. Such a move, the thinking went, would put India under American obligation. Savarkar’s response was that all nations look first to their own security and prosperity while dealing with international problems. They make or unmake pacts with this end view alone. In politics no state remains under the obligation of another for ever (see Trehan 1991: 55). In World War II the Soviet Union had accepted American aid but that did not keep it under American obligation for long. In a statement made in the Indian parliament Prime Minister Nehru had observed that Aksai Chin, a small disputed tract on the India China border, was commonly known as ‘no man’s land.’ Savarkar’s comment: If you that all along, why did you not turn it into ‘Hindu [at least Indian] man’s land?
In an article published in the Shraddhanand in February 1928, Savarkar warned the people of India about the plan that was afoot then to detach the Muslim majority province of Sindh from the Bombay Presidency. But Indians failed to recognize that seed of the future division of India was then being sowed. Indeed, in 1932 the Communal Award accepted all the major Muslim communal demands of the time. The Award was announced by the British Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald in August 1932 whereby separate electorates were granted to minority communities including the Depressed Classes (now known as Dalits) in India. The Award was highly controversial and opposed by Gandhi, who fasted in protest against it. It was supported by many among the minority communities though, most notably by Dr Ambedkar. The Award created a Muslim majority in the provinces of Bengal and Punjab through guaranteed reservations that assured Muslims 33 1/3% of the seats in the central legislature. Later, in 1935 it created a Muslim majority province of Sindh by detaching Sindh from Bombay Presidency (Trehan 1991: 63).
Commenting in Mahratta (May 29, 1942) on the visiting Chinese Muslim Mission being lead by Mr. Woo to India, Savarkar expressed concern over what he sensed was the primary purpose of the mission: to establish closer Pan-Islamic contacts amongst Muslims of Asia. Mr. Woo had met with leading advocates of the Pakistan movement and pledged the support of the Chinese Muslims to their brethren in India to forge a Pan-Islamic line between the Indian, Burmese, and Chinese Muslims. Savarkar invited Hindus to work for establishing a united Hindu-Buddhist front stretching from Jammu to Japan (Savarkar 6: 546).
The Constituent Assembly of India was set up as a result of negotiations between the Indian leaders and members of the British. It was elected indirectly by the members of the Provincial legislative assembly in which the Congress party won an overwhelming majority while the Muslim League managed to sweep almost all the seats reserved for Muslims. The Congress party sweet-talked the people of India into voting for it. Nehru made a public declaration to the effect that the idea of Pakistan was a ‘fantastic nonsense’ and Gandhi solemnly pledged that Pakistan would be created only over his dead body. But Savarkar warned the Indian electorate that “a vote for the Congress means a vote for Pakistan.” The assembly first met in December 1946 while India was still under the British rule and just as Savarkar had predicted, almost immediately the Congress started negotiations for the division of India. The Muslim League demanded to include the whole of Bengal and Punjab in the proposed Pakistan.
Alarmed by these developments; on May 23, 1947 Savarkar issued a statement entitled “Before they vivisect India let us vivisect their [proposed] Pakistan first.” It called for (1) immediate separation of Hindu majority districts from Bengal and Hindu/Sikh majority districts from Punjab; (2) expulsion of all Muslim trespassers from Assam at any cost to sandwich and smother the proposed eastern Pakistan between two Indian provinces. In addition he wanted the government of India to emphatically declare and manfully act upon the rule that Muslim minority in India shall be given the same treatment as is meted out to the Hindu minority in Muslim Pakistan in all respects such as representation, services, and even rights of citizenship (see Savarkar 1964 6: 553, 557-558; Trehan 1991: 79). Savarkar next cabled the Bengal and Punjab units of the Hindu Mahasabha to work for the division of the projected Pakistan. Partly as a result of this action that the Hindu majority districts of Bengal and Punjab were eventually identified, separated, and joined with the post-partition India. Not surprisingly, Jinnah was deeply disturbed that his plan of claiming undivided Bengal and Punjab for Pakistan had been foiled.
Napal being the world’s only Hindu nation, India should maintain a friendly relationship with it. Indians leaders (who do not enjoy political freedom themselves) should not interfere in its internal affairs and refrain from sermonizing Nepal and its government about an ideal political system. The politics of a subject race can be no guide to the exigencies of an independent kingdom like Nepal (Savarkar 1945: 133). Savarkar was the only leader of a major Indian political party that rejected the provisions of the Cripps Plan in toto in 1942. The Cripps Plan had provided for the opting out of the proposed Indian federation by any province if the people of that province by a majority vote desired so. Savarkar saw in this principle of self-determination the seeds of the future division of India. During the meeting of the Indian leaders with Sir Stafford Cripps Savarkar asked Cripps if the British parliament would allow the cessation of Ireland or Scotland from Great Britain. When Cripps replied in the negative, Savarkar quipped why then the double standard with respect to India? In a statement issued on April 21, 1942 criticized the Congress for its decision to formally recognize the principle of self-determination. Such appeasement of Muslims will eventually culminate in the recognition of the demand for Pakistan.
When in 1947, Pakistani irregulars infiltrated Kashmir, Savarkar wanted the Indian army on the border immediately to protect Kashmir. After Pakistan denied its involvement claiming that the infiltrators were Afridi gangs, he had wanted the Indian government to warn Pakistan to stay out and that the Indian troops will take care of the Afridis. Later, he pleaded with Nehru urging him not to take the Kashmir question to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Savarkar also had advised the government to settle the large number of Hindu refugees streaming in from Punjab and Bengal in Kashmir. Nehru disregarded both these pleas and even today India is paying dearly for these lapses. On December 19, 1947 in a statement issued to the press Savarkar expressed satisfaction that the overwhelming majority of the leading nations of the world had recognized the claim of the Jewish people to establish an independent Jewish state in Palestine (Savarkar 6: 558). Then in 1956 in a speech at Jodhpur, Rajasthan he demanded that India should grant full recognition to Israel. It took three long decades for the government of India to take this necessary step.
Savarkar was unhappy with the growing trend to symbolize the wheel at the center on India’s national flag as the wheel of dharma. It would be more appropriate to see in it the wheel held by Shri Krishna (sudarśana charka). When Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerji broke away from the Hindu Mahasabha and founded the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in 1951, Savarkar predicted that in due course the Jan Sangh will become indistinguishable from the Congress. In 1953 The Hindu Mahasabha, Ramrajya Parishad, and the Jan Sangh jointly stages satyagraha for a formal integration of Kashmir in India. The government of Kashmir prohibited entry of Indian citizens into Kashmir. Mookerji issued a statement of his intention to ignore the ban and enter Kashmir. Savarkar warned Mookerji that there was danger to Mookerji’s life if he courted arrest and that the nation was in need of a live [not dead] Mookerji. But Mookerji ignored Savarkar’s plea and paid for it by his life.
A secular state within a Hindu nation
In a statement released to the press on June 28, 1937 Savarkar readily granted the need for a secular state in a country like India. But he would not tolerate discrimination against the majority Hindu community while granting special privileges to minorities. The Hindu majority will not encroach on the legitimate rights of any non-Hindu minority. But in no case can the Hindu majority resign its right which as a majority it is entitled to exercise under any democratic and legitimate constitution. A minority status cannot be invoked to justify special privileges nor can a majority status be deemed a ground for penalty (Savarkar 1964 6: 353; Trehan 1991: 99, 109). In his presidential address at the 21st Hindu Mahasabha convention held in Kolkata in 1939, Savarkar reiterated that the legitimate rights of minorities with regards to their religion, culture, and language will be expressed guaranteed: on one condition only that the equal rights of the majority must not in any case be encroached or abrogated. Every minority may have separate schools to train up their children in their own tongue, their own religion, or cultural institutions and can receive government help also for these—but always in proportion to the taxes they pay into the common exchequer. The same principle must of course hold good in case of the majority too (Savarkar 1864 6: 367).
The same message was repeated in a speech delivered in 1937 in which Savarkar declared, “Let the Indian State be purely Indian. Let it not recognize any invidious distinctions whatsoever as regards the franchise, public services, offices, taxation on the grounds of religion and race. Let no cognizance be taken whatsoever of man being Hindu or Mohammedan, Christian or Jew. Let all citizens of that Indian State be treated according to their individual worth irrespective of their religious or racial percentage in the general population…. If such an Indian State is kept in view, the Hindu Sanghatanists will, in the interest of Hindu Sangathan itself, be the first to offer their whole-hearted loyalty to it. I for one and thousands of the Mahasabhaites like me have set this ideal of an Indian State as our political goal ever since the beginning of our political career and shall continue to work for its consummation to the end of our life.”
This commitment was reiterated in a letter addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Bombay from Arthur Road Prison, Bombay and dated February 22, 1949 in which Savarkar stated
I have been an advocate throughout my life of Genuine Indian Nationalism. I always
emphasized that all citizens who owned loyalty to the Indian State must be loved as fellow citizens and treated with equality of rights and obligations to the state irrespective of caste,
creed or religion, without the least distinction being made as Hindu or a Mohammedan or
Parsee or a Jew. ‘One man one vote’ and ‘service to go by merit alone’ these two principles
will be found endlessly repeated in all my writings and speeches made throughout my political career for some 50 years in the past (cited in Noorani 2002: 146).
The Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar’s leadership shared power with the Muslim League in certain provinces. This was in tune with Savarkar’s policy of responsive cooperation (sādhyānukul sahakārya; a policy that Lokmanya Tilak had espoused earlier). On December 11, 1943, Fazlul Haq approached the Governor and apprised him of his intention to form a new ministry and to invite Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee of the Hindu Mahasabha to accept a cabinet post in the said ministry. In a statement issued in this regard, Dr. Mookerjee said that communal amity and unity was the need of the hour in Bengal and a strong and representative Government having the support of Hindus and Muslims was necessary in this regard. Everybody should support the Ministry leaving caste and religious hatred aside, stated Mookerjee. This step was consistent with Savarkar’s policy to occupy Governmental posts to safeguard Hindu interests. The soundness of this policy was proved on the very next day. Sarat Chandra Bose, younger brother of Subhas Chandra Bose was placed under house arrest by the British for his suspected links with the Japanese. When this issue was raised in the Assembly the next day, Dr. Mookerjee in his maiden speech as Minister gave an assurance that he would make all efforts to secure Bose's release.
In pursuance of the same policy, the Hindu Mahasabha participated in the Muslim League Ministry in Sind. When the League Ministry in Sindh passed a resolution in favour of formation of Pakistan, the lone dissenting voice was that of the Hindu Mahasabha minister. It is noteworthy that the so-called nationalist Muslim Allah Bux, who was a Congress member, abstained when this resolution was introduced in the Sindh Assembly. Thus, the Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar occupied positions of power whenever possible not to enjoy power per se but to safeguard Hindu interests. It is noteworthy that Savarkar himself never occupied a position of power. Savarkar had correctly predicted that India will emerge victorious over Pakistan in the 1965 war but that the Indian forces will be pulled back before the UN imposed a cease-fire order. He then urged Prime Minister Lal Bahaddur Shastri to not go to Tashkent for signing the peace treaty where he would come under tremendous pressure to make unreasonable compromises by giving back all that was won on the battle field.
As we saw in the initial section, during the pre-Andamans phase, Savarkar was prepared to forgive the perceived wrongs of the past committed by Afghans, Persians, Turks, and Mughals in order to create a better future for a united India. In the introduction to The First Indian War of Independence-1857 he stressed that a nation that has no consciousness of its past has no future. But a nation must also develop its capacity to use the past for the furtherance of its future. The feeling of hatred against Muslims may have been necessary in the past but such a feeling would be unjust and foolish if nursed today simply because it was the dominant feeling of Hindus then. One must distil the salient principles of history rather than treat it as mere narrative (see Noorani 2002: 40).
In the presidential address to the Karnavati (Ahmedabad) session of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha in 1937 Savarkar declared: The state in India will not recognize any invidious distinctions whatsoever as regards the franchise, public services, offices, taxation on the grounds of religion and race. It will not take cognizance whatsoever of one being Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Jew. All citizens of the Indian State will be treated according to their individual worth irrespective of their religious or racial percentage in the general population.” Again in 1938 he declared, “On stepping into the post independence Indian Parliament, not a trace should remain of distinctions of being a Hindu, Mussalman or a Parsee.”
Muslims, however, were unwilling to subsume their identity within the broader Indian identity and continued to expect special privileges and advantages for them. After the partition of India had become a fait accompli and before Jinnah left India for Pakistan, he advised the Muslim League leaders and their followers, who had ‘chosen’ to remain in India, that they should remain ‘loyal’ citizens of India. According to Abul Kalam Azad, this statement angered Muslims that remained in India because they felt that Jinnah had deceived them and left them in the lurch. The fact is, these Muslims had failed to realize the implications of abetting in the creation of Pakistan. Supporters of the Muslim League, argued Azad, had been foolishly persuaded that once Pakistan was formed Muslims (whether they came from a majority or minority province) would be regarded as a separate nation and would enjoy the right of determining their own future. These fools now realized that they had gained nothing by the partition of India. In addition, they had, through their foolish action, created anger and resentment in the minds of the Hindus (Azad 1988: 227; Trehan 1991: 81-82).
Savarkar saw nationalism to be but an inevitable step towards the pan-human state. But before you make a case for universalism, you must make out a case for survival until then as a national unit and social human unit (Trehan 1991: 102). A Western (American to be specific) convert to the Hindu dharma, Jeffrey Long is in sympathy with the fear that underlies the Hindutva ideology. There are Islamic, Christian, and secular forces, he notes, that are avowedly antagonistic to Hinduism. But violence is not the answer to these forces (Long 2008: 181). Long also faults Savarkar for reducing Hinduism to the local concerns of an ethnic religion by equating Hinduism with India and a single national group and thereby limiting its universalizing potential. With due respect to Long, it must be pointed out that Savarkar did not deny the universal dimension of Hinduism. His claim, rather, was that Hindu culture itself is composite enough, without having to be counted as one religion among many which constitute the composite culture of India. Indian [Hindu] culture was one macrocosmically though many microcosmically. In the words of Lipner, it was a polycentric phenomenon imbued with the same life-sap. This polycentric culture is like the banyan tree, which has many apparent trunks, but no clearly identifiable centre. Furthermore, Savarkar’s definition of Hindutva is compatible with any conceivable expansion of Hindus beyond India as for instance, is happening right now. The only geographical limits of Hindutva, as such, are the limits of the earth.
Long’s critic of Savarkar therefore is a Hindu critique, a critique that is based on a sense of what he considers inadequacy of Hindutva to the universalist pluralist aspirations of the modern Hindu tradition (Long 2008: 182). Responding to Long’s criticism of Savarkar; Professor Arvind Sharma has argued that the vast mansion of Hinduism contains two portals of entry—one at the Eastern gate and one at the Western, one ethnic and the other universal. While those born as Hindus could live happily in India that Savarkar equated with Hinduism; those who come to it via conversion could invoke its pluralism and universalism (see Sharma 2008: 246).
In sum, Savarkar would agree with Long’s contention that conceived as a universal religion, Hinduism has great potential to be a model for imagining a harmony and a unity-in-diversity of the religions and the people of the world). Long, in turn, grants that Savarkar himself acknowledges this potential in the final sentence of his Hindutva (Long 2008: 188):
A Hindu is most intensely so when he ceases to be a Hindu and with
a Shankar claims the whole earth for a Benares…or with Tukaram exclaims
…’My country! Oh brothers, the limits of the universe—there the frontiers
of my country lie! (Savarkar 2003: 141).
Works by V.D. Savarkar
Savarkar, V.D. 1923 . Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? New Delhi: Hindi Sahitya Sadan
Savarkar, V.D. 1945. Hindu Rashtravad: Being an exposition of the ideology and immediate programme of Hindu Rashtra. Compiled and edited by Satya Prakash. Rohtak: Satya Prakash.
Savarkar, V. D. 1950. The Story of My Transportation of Life, translated into English by V.N. Naik, Bombay: Sadbhakti Publications.
Savarkar, V.D. 1964. Samagra Savarkar Wangamaya: Writings of Swatantrya Veer V.D. Savarkar (6 vols). Pune: Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha.
Savarkar, V.D. 1970. The Indian War of Independence-1857. Delhi: Rajdhani Granthagar.
Savarkar, V.D. 1971. Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History. New Delhi: Rajdhani Granthagar.
Ambedkar, B.R. 1976. Pakistan or the Partition of India. Lahore: Mustafa Waheed.
Azad, M.A.K. 1988. India Wins Freedom. New Delhi: Orient Longman.
Banerjee, Nitya Narayan. 1990. Hindu Outlook. Calcutta: Hindutva Publications.
Godbole, Shreerang. 2004. Congress loves to hate Savarkar! Orgnaniser (September 12, 2004).
Hitti, Philip K. 1964. History of the Arabs.
Hughes, Thomas Patrick. 1885. A Dictionary of Islam.
Lipner, Julius J. 2005. Ancient Banyan: An Inquiry into the Meaning of “Hinduness.” In Defining Hinduism: A Reader, 30-49. London: Equinox.
Lane-Poole, Stanley. 1916. Medieval India.
Lane-Poole, Stanley. Moors in Spain.
Long, Jeffrey D. 2008. Truth, Diversity, and the Incomplete Project of Modern Hinduism. In Hermeneutics and Hindu Thought: Toward a Fusion of Horizons edited by Rita Sherma and Arvind Sharma, 179-210, Springer.
Majumdar, R.C. et al 1950. An Advanced History of India.
McKean, Lise. 1996. Divine Enterprise: Gurus and the Hindu Nationalist Movement. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Noorani, A.G. 2002. Savarkar and Hindutva: The Godse Connection. New Delhi: LeftWord Books.
Pañcatantra of Viṣṇuśarman edited with Sanskrit commentary and critical notes by M. R. Kale. 1982. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass .
Sardesai, G.S. 1927. Hindustancha Arvachin Itihas [Marathi].
Sharma, Shri Ram. Nasir-ud-din Khusau Shah. Indian Historical Quarterly vol xxvi: 27-39.
Shrivastava, Harindra. 1983. Five Stormy Years- Savarkar in London. New Delhi: Allied Publishers.
Tilak, B.G. 1995 . Srimad Bhagvadgita-Rahasya or Karma-Yoga-Sastra. Translated from Marathi by Bhalchandra S. Sukthankar. Pune: Tilak Brothers.
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