“Our country lives
Among the dead
And dies among the living” ― Visar Zhiti.
What would you do for the love of your country? Fight its enemies? Sacrifice your life even? Could you go the lengths that others cannot even dream of? Would you have the courage to rape the women of the enemies of your glorious nation to inspire awe and terror among them? Would this not be a fitting reply to those who dare to invade your motherland, a lesson that they would remember for generations and pass on to their children so that they too would shudder with fear every time the thought of casting a covetous glance towards your motherland crosses their minds!
Do you think i have a perverted mind? You are very much mistaken because these are not my thoughts. Meet our glorious freedom fighter and ardent nationalist V D Savarkar aka Veer Savarkar. Before you declare me a malicious rumor monger and reach for your guns let me quote from V D Savarkar’s last work, ‘Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History’ : “The Muslim women never feared retribution or punishment at the hands of any Hindu for their heinous crime. They (read Hindus) had a perverted idea of woman-chivalry……Muslim women were sure that even in the thick of battles and in the confusion wrought just after them neither the victor Hindu Chiefs, nor any of their common soldiers, nor would even any civilian ever touch their hair….It was the suicidal Hindu idea of chivalry to women which saved the Muslim women…….But because of the then prevalent perverted religious ideas about chivalry to women, which ultimately proved highly detrimental to the Hindu community, neither Shivaji Maharaj nor Chimaji Appa could do such wrongs to the Muslim women.”, (from the chapter titled,’Hindu Chivalry Towards Enemy Women’, paragraphs, 449-454). ‘Veer’ Savarkar’s grouse is that due their perverted sense of chivalry toward women, Muslim women were left unmolested by the Hindu armies. The point was to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies by violating their women. This is the historic wrong that Hindus committed and ‘Veer’ Savarkar now wished to correct.
Celebrated by the Sangh parivar for his realism, Savarkar had little patience for such ‘idealist’ virtues as protecting women from being violated during wars, being charitable towards a defeated enemy etc. A pragmatist to the core Savarkar rejected such humane attitudes as perversions. The duty of the warrior was to win the war and he ought not brook such effeminate values that weaken the zeal to be ruthless towards the enemy. Consequently, he disliked Buddhism too; a religion based upon the idea of universalism and human brotherhood was not conducive to waging war against the national enemy; he writes about Buddhism;“the leaders of thought and action grew sick of repeating the mumbos and jumbos of universal brotherhood.” (page 11, Essentials of Hindutva); he continues, “what an immense amount of strength could be derived if but the new national State was backed up by a Church as intensely national” (ibid.), unlike Buddhism which was universalist and pacifist, he meant.
Savarkar’s conception of the entire history of South Asia is informed by a military paradigm-war between US and Them, those who are true to their ‘punyabhoomi’ (sacred birthland) and their enemies, those who live within the ‘punyabhoomi’ but are not/cannot ever be loyal it. These outsiders are the vermin who destroy our sacred culture, religion and ancient way of life. To Savarkar, the entire history of South Asia revolves around one theme, the conflict between the inhabitants of punyabhoomi trying to safeguard their way of life and the outsiders hell bent upon destroying it. In this conception of history, all conflicts within the sacred community stand suspended, any mention of the oppressors within is dangerous because it endangers the war that must be waged against the outsiders.
Women are to be protected not because they deserve dignity as fellow humans but mainly because in safeguarding the dignity of women resides the honor of the sacred community. A nation that cannot protect the honor of its own women has no dignity. The flipside is that the women who ‘belong’ to the enemy are fair game. By humiliating them, violating them, one breaks the spirit of the enemy. The bodies of women, thus become prize rings within which great warriors spar to bring glory their nations.
Caste is to be transcended not in the bid to ensure justice but primarily because it creates dissensions within one’s own ranks and potentially weakens the war that is to be waged outside. V D Savarakar without doubt hated the caste system and on several occasions wrote at length (as his adherents never tire in pointing out) about the need to abolish it. A closer examination of his writings reveal though that his real concern was not so much the eradication of this evil institution as furnishing an apologia for his religion. He was most ingenious in trying to shift responsibility; on one occasion he advances the incredible claim that Buddhism was responsible for the intensification of the practice of untouchability! ;”the unavoidable result of the violent way in which the Buddhists tried to establish the principle of ‘Ahimsa’, and of their declaring animal-hunting and flesh-eating punishable by death, of their over-enthusiastic and relentless efforts to search out such offenders and give the harshest capital and other severe punishments, was that the practice of untouchability instead of being wiped out became still more firmly rooted, widespread and most distressing.” (Six Glorious Epochs of Hinduism, clause paragraph 344). One would get the impression that the brahminical social order was waging a relentless struggle to wipe out the practice of untouchability before the Buddhists violently reinstated it! The historical credibility of this astonishing claim is so shaky that it merits no attention, though one could make a passing remark that he makes no attempt to explain that if brahminical social order was indeed so noble then how this evil institution even came into being even before Buddhism was born. Savarkar’s historical ‘facts’ were a response to the militant anti-brahminical movements that were shaking the ground beneath his brand of nationalism and gradually sapping the legitimacy of brahminical social order. His defensiveness about the injustice ingrained within this unjust social order sanctioned by religion is also borne out by his flagrant defence of the oppressive caste structure maintained by the peshwas, his beloved anti-muslim national warriors; “Those, who ignorantly or maliciously blame the Peshwas for the evil treatment given to the untouchables when they entered the town, should also criticize, equally vehemently and for the same offence Asoka, Shree Harsha and Buddhist kings, and all the Kshatriya kings right from Vikramaditya to the Rajput rulers, when they see this evidence. For this evil tradition of untouchability was not begun by the Peshwas for the first time…..The Buddhists, once again I should like to repeat, aggravated and not mitigated ‘Untouchability.”
Savarkar’s was a typical upper caste/elite response to the anti-caste/anti-brahminical movements that were threatening to destroy the privileges that the so called high castes enjoyed under the patronage of the colonial government. This response can be summed up thus: ‘raise the bogey of threat to the motherland from outsiders, glorify the upper caste warriors’ historical role in defying outside invasions, recruit the the oppressed and the downtrodden to the cause of war against foreign invaders by raising a fear psychosis of outside threat and in the process preserve the internal coherence of the brahminical social order by diffusing the socio-economic unrest within. All those who call for struggle for social justice within the brahminical order are misguided souls who create dissension within one’s own ranks by jeopardizing the war that is to be waged against the outsiders.One crucial fact however, that Savarkar could never/could not have explained was the apparent loyalty of almost all princely states towards the British empire. The Rajputs who came across as exemplary fighters against the muslims invaders in the pre-colonial period became the firm allies of British imperialism. One wonders why a man of cunning reason like him could not figure out that every king is a valiant warrior when he is fighting to retain his kingdom. So long as early Turkish invaders threatened to take away their kingdoms, they essayed glorious chapters of ‘national resistance’, but the British won them over to their side by ensuring that they retained their kingdoms even after being defeated. Defeat the kings, tax them and allow them to retain their kingdoms and you can be rest assured that they would become the pillars of your empire. And the princes did not disappoint them, they helped the British rule remain firm for as long as it lasted. And they financed the Hindu Mahasabha too; state philosophers like Savarkar, who helped divert the popular unrest against upper caste zamindaris/princes and the British by asserting that the enemy number one were muslims.
Much is made of Savarkar, the freedom fighter and it is true that in his youth he did flirt with the underground revolutionary movement. But once he was arrested and sentenced to Kalapani, his tone changed completely. He began to write despondent petitions to the British government, professing loyalty and promise of good conduct in future; “I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like… . Where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government…..Therefore if the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy, release me I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress.” the `revolutionary’ and `nationalist’ wrote.(November 14, 1913).
Sangh Parivar ideologues try to defend this and other similar mercy petitions by arguing that VD Savarkar was a realist who did flinch from writing such humiliating mercy petitions because his first priority was to somehow escape the jail so that he could resume his revolutionary activities. Savarkar’s subsequent conduct however does not seem to point to his purported intent. After his release from the jail he almost completely detached himself from all forms of anti-colonial resistance, concentrating mostly on spewing venom against muslims whom he now declared Hindus’ enemy number one. This however did not stop him from supporting Hindu Mahasabha’s opportunistic alliance with with the Muslim League to form ministries at a time when the Congress ministries resigned to launch the Quit India Movement. The primary objective of this act was to stall the freedom struggle and to extend support to the floundering British empire ( I have written about this incident in details along with concrete historical evidence in a prior post).
On 27th February, 2003 BJP government got a portrait of VD Savarkar installed in the parliament. It was unveiled with slogans of “Swatantryaveer Savarkar Amar Rahe” raised by BJP and Shiv Sena MPs. On 28th May 2013, Narendra Modi paid tributes to Savarkar described him as thus; “Veer Savarkar was a Veer Purush who was not scared of death. He was a Shastra Upasak and Shaasrta Upasak.” Like father, like children? One wonders!
Image Source: Savarkar