The Bharat Ratna debate
Whether Savarkar is worthy of India’s highest civilian award is the moot point
With the arrogance of power and Machiavellian politics, the RSS-BJP combine is trying to appropriate, nay to misappropriate India's glorious past. The latest in this regard is the call for Bharat Ratna for Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The Maharashtra BJP incorporated the demand as part of its manifesto along with asking for a similar honour for Mahatma Phule. This was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah openly justifying the demand. Amit Shah went much further and said that our history must be rewritten.
Releasing its election manifesto for the Maharashtra assembly polls, BJP promised that it would ask the NDA government at the Centre to confer India's highest civilian award on Savarkar. A point to note here is the timing of the request. BJP has been in power since 2014 and has only now chosen to honour Savarkar. It is not by chance that the choice is being announced at a time when the entire country has been celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Hence, it is clear that the ultimate goal of conferring the award to Savarkar is, of course, to undermine Gandhi and his position as the tallest leader in the national movement and to elevate the RSS, Golwalkar and Godse. It is also to project RSS as one founded by so-called heroes of freedom struggle and their fellow travellers.
It must be noted here that at an earlier attempt by then PM A B Vajpayee to do the same was forced to abort following widespread national criticism. Anyone who follows the RSS ways of imposing their views on people will readily agree that the award given last year to RSS icon Nanaji Deshmukh was, in fact, a 'test-drive' or a 'litmus test' to see if they could get away with awarding figures with a history of advocating bigotry. PM Modi's visit to Savarkar's jail cell in Andaman Cellular Jail in order to pay homage can also be considered part of this same plan.
The well-calculated move to put Savarkar alongside the real great national heroes with government sanction will render it a permanent fixture that cannot be rescinded later. Dhananjay Keer, his biographer, describes an incident in which a twelve-year-old Savarkar led a march of his school mates to stone a village mosque. Savarkar himself in his later recounting, uncritically and with pride, recounts the same incident. "We vandalised the mosque to our heart's content and raised the flag of our bravery on it. We followed the war strategy of Shivaji completely and ran away from the site after accomplishing the task."
Also when in jail, he wrote infamous mercy petitions to the British, begging for release and pledging loyalty, with not one word written about Indian freedom. He wrote: "Now no man having the good of India and humanity at heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. 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."
It is also on record that while Gandhi, other freedom movement leaders and Subhash Chandra Bose spent the World War II period intensifying the movement to decolonise India, Savarkar was recruiting Hindu soldiers into the British army. When the Congress resigned from all the state ministries it held during the Quit India Movement, Savarkar advocated steadfast loyalty to the British and at his direction the Hindu Mahasabha allied with the Muslim League to occupy the ministries vacated by the Congress.
The society and values that Savarkar advocated for are not in line with the Indian Constitution and in fact, run rather contrary to it. Golwalkar and Savarkar were the biggest admirers of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany and it was visible in their politics. Ghettoising and marginalising the Muslim community was one of their stated goals. He also petitioned the British for military conscription, compulsory military training in schools and rights for all Hindus to own guns. Savarkar never led or joined a movement for social reform and he was part of groups opposed to women's rights, temple entry or anti-untouchability movements.
History is something based on accepted facts and cannot be amended to accommodate concocted facts that suit some groups or a particular ideology. It cannot be erased or amended as the present is a continuation of the past, confirming fully the veracity of the facts. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in a recent seminar at Banaras Hindu University, spoke about the need to "rewrite history" from an "Indian point of view" and went on to ask, "Who is stopping us from amending history?" His call to rewrite history is predicated on specific, pre-determined outcomes and cannot be seen in isolation from his regime's and his political organisation's overall world view.
He added: "If there was no Veer Savarkar, the 1857 kranti (revolution) would not have become history. We would view even that from the point of view of the British." This is not at all true. Why tell a lie to score over others who stand head and shoulders above Savarkar? It was Karl Marx himself who had called the revolt as India's first war of independence against the British colonial rulers.
Awarding Bharat Ratna to Savarkar, rewriting of history, etc., are only pointers to their conspiracy to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra even by suitably amending our Constitution. The Communist Party of India is well aware of it and in 2015 at the XXII Party Congress at Puducherry observed publicly that the advent of Narendra Modi to power should not be viewed as a mere change of power from one bourgeois government to another bourgeois one. As years passed and the RSS-BJP government came out in its true colours, in its fascist avatar, wrecking everything that is Indian, secular, constitutional and based on pluralism, the party at its XXIII Congress at Kollam declared that mass resistance is the need of the hour and the offensive can be countered only from a platform of all secular, democratic and left forces. I, therefore, appeal to all those who cherish the secular fabric of our nation to come out openly and defeat the RSS-BJP conspiratorial offensive. IPA
(D Raja is General Secretary of the CPI. Views expressed are strictly personal)