Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

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Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
Born(1883-05-28)28 May 1883
Died26 February 1966(1966-02-26) (aged 82)
NationalityBritish Indian (1883-1947)
Indian (1947-1966)
Other namesVeer Savarkar
Occupation(s)Politician, activist, writer
Known forHindutva
Political partyHindu Mahasabha
(m. 1901; died 1963)
RelativesGanesh Damodar Savarkar (brother)

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar(pronunciation), Marathi pronunciation: [ʋinaːjək saːʋəɾkəɾ]; 28 May 1883 – 26 February 1966) was an Indian politician, activist and writer. Savarkar developed the Hindu nationalist political ideology of Hindutva while confined at Ratnagiri in 1922.[2][3][4] He was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha.[5][6] The prefix "Veer" (meaning 'brave') has been applied to his name by his followers.[7]

Savarkar began his political activities as a high school student and continued to do so at Fergusson College in Pune.[8] He and his brother founded a secret society called Abhinav Bharat Society. When he went to the United Kingdom for his law studies, he involved himself with organizations such as India House and the Free India Society. He also published books advocating complete Indian independence by revolutionary means.[9] One of the books he published called The Indian War of Independence about the Indian Rebellion of 1857 was banned by the British colonial authorities.[10]

In 1910, Savarkar was arrested by the British government and was ordered to be extradited to India for his connections with India House. On the voyage back to India, Savarkar staged an attempt to escape from the steamship SS Morea and seek asylum in France while the ship was docked in the port of Marseilles. The French port officials however handed him back to the British government. On return to India, Savarkar was sentenced to life terms of imprisonment totaling fifty years and was moved to the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He was released in 1924 by the British officials after he wrote a series of mercy petitions to the British.[11] He virtually stopped any criticism of the British regime after he was released from jail.[12]

After being released from his restriction to Ratnagiri district in 1937, Savarkar started traveling widely, becoming a forceful orator and writer, advocating Hindu political and social unity. In his Ahmedabad addressal, he supported Two-nation theory.[13] The Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar's leadership endorsed the idea of India as a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).

In 1939, the ruling Indian National Congress resigned en masse over Britain declaring India a belligerent in World War II. The Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar formed alliances with the Muslim League and other non-Congress parties to form government in many states. Subsequently, Congress under Gandhi's leadership launched the Quit India Movement; Savarkar boycotted the movement,[14] writing a letter titled "Stick to your Posts" and recruiting Indians for the British war effort.[15] In 1948, Savarkar was charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi; he was acquitted by the court for lack of evidence.

Life and career

Early life

Savarkar was born on 28 May 1883 in the Marathi Hindu Chitpavan Brahmin family, to Damodar and Radhabai Savarkar in the village of Bhagur, near the city of Nashik, Maharashtra.[16][17] He had three other siblings namely Ganesh, Narayan, and a sister named Maina.[citation needed] Savarkar began his activism as a high school student.[8] When he was 12, he led fellow students in an attack on his village mosque following Hindu-Muslim riots, stating: "We vandalized the mosque to our heart's content."[18][19] In 1903, in Nashik, Savarkar and his older brother Ganesh Savarkar founded the Mitra Mela, an underground revolutionary organization, which became Abhinav Bharat Society in 1906.[20] Abhinav Bharat's main objectives were to overthrow British rule and reviving Hindu pride.[21]

Student activist

The Savarkar brothers (left to right) Narayan, Ganesh and Vinayak, with Shanta, sister Maina Kale and Yamuna

Savarkar continued his political activism as a student at Fergusson College in Pune. Savarkar was greatly influenced by the radical Nationalist leader, Lokmanya Tilak. Tilak was in turn impressed with the young student and helped him obtain the Shivaji Scholarship in 1906 for his law studies in London.[8][22] To protest against Bengal partition of 1905, Savarkar led foreign-clothes bonfire in India with other students in presence of Bal Gangadhar Tilak.[23]

London years

In London, Savarkar got involved with organizations such as India House and the Free India Society. He also published books advocating complete Indian independence by revolutionary means.[9] One of the books he published called The Indian War of Independence about the Indian Rebellion of 1857 was banned by the British colonial authorities.[24]

Savarkar was influenced by the life and thinking of Italian Nationalist leader, Giuseppe Mazzini. During his stay in London, Savarkar translated Mazzini's biography in Marathi.[25] He also influenced thinking of a fellow student called Madanlal Dhingra. In 1909, Dhingra assassinated Curzon Wyllie, a colonial officer. It is alleged by Mark Juergensmeyer that Savarkar supplied the gun which Dhingra used. Juergensmeyer further alleged that Savarkar supplied the words for Dhingra's last statement before he went to the gallows for the murder. Savarkar met Mohandas Gandhi for the first time in London shortly after Curzon-Wyllie's assassination. During his stay, Gandhi debated Savarkar and other nationalists in London on the futility of fighting the colonial state through acts of terrorism and guerilla warfare.[26]

Arrest and transportation to India

In India, Ganesh Savarkar organized an armed revolt against the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909, and was sentenced to life imprisonment on the Andaman islands.[27][28] Around the same time Vinayak Savarkar was accused of participating in a conspiracy to overthrow the British government in India by organizing murders of various officials.[29] Hoping to evade arrest, Savarkar moved to Bhikaiji Cama's home in Paris,[30] but against advice from his friends, returned to London. On 13 March 1910, he was arrested in London on multiple charges, including procurement and distribution of arms, waging war against the state, and delivering seditious speeches. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying several revolutionary texts, including copies of his own banned books. In addition, the British government had evidence that he had smuggled 20 Browning handguns into India, one of which Anant Laxman Kanhere used to assassinate the Nasik district's collector A.M.T. Jackson in December 1909.[29] During the trial of Nasik Conspiracy Case 1910, government's advocate alleged that Savarkar was a moving part and inspiration behind assassination of Jackson. A Bombay court tried him in the Nasik conspiracy case and sentenced him for life-imprisonment and transported him to the notorious Cellular Jail of Andaman Island and forfeited his property.[31][32]

Although his alleged crimes were committed both in Britain, as well as India, the British authorities decided to try him in India. He was accordingly put on the commercial ship Morea with a police escort for his transport to India. When the ship docked in the French Mediterranean port of Marseille, Savarkar escaped by jumping from the ship's window, swam to the French shore, and asked for political asylum. The French port officials ignored his pleas, and handed him back to his British captors. When the French government came to know of this incidence, they asked for Savarkar to be brought back to France, and lodged an appeal with the Permanent Court of Arbitration.[33][34][29]

French Case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration

CourtPermanent Court of Arbitration
Full case nameArrest and Return of Savarkar (France v. Great Britain)
Decided24 February 1911
Case history
Prior action(s)Accused of crime, evading arrest
Court membership
Judges sittingM. Beernaert, president, elected by panel
Louis Renault
Earl of Desart
G. Gram
Alexander de Savornin Lohman
Case opinions
Decision byUnanimous panel

Savarkar's arrest at Marseilles caused the French government to protest against the British, arguing that the British could not recover Savarkar unless they took appropriate legal proceedings for his rendition. The dispute came before the Permanent Court of International Arbitration in 1910, and it gave its decision in 1911. The case excited much controversy as was reported widely by the French press, and it considered it involved an interesting international question of the right of asylum.[35]

The Court held, firstly, that since there was a pattern of collaboration between the two countries regarding the possibility of Savarkar's escape in Marseilles and there was neither force nor fraud in inducing the French authorities to return Savarkar to them, the British authorities did not have to hand him back to the French for the latter to hold rendition proceedings. On the other hand, the tribunal also observed that there had been an "irregularity" in Savarkar's arrest and delivery over to the Indian Army Military Police guard.[36]

Trial and sentence

Arriving in Bombay, Savarkar was taken to the Yervada Central Jail in Pune. The trial before the special tribunal was started on 10 September 1910.[37] One of the charges on Savarkar was the abetment to murder of Nashik Collector A. M. T. Jackson. The second was waging a conspiracy under Indian penal code 121-A against the King Emperor.[38][39] Following the two trials, Savarkar, then aged 28, was convicted and sentenced to 50-years imprisonment and transported on 4 July 1911 to the infamous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He was considered by the British government as a political prisoner.[5][better source needed]

Savarkar in jail clothes

Prisoner in Andaman

A statue of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar at Cellular Jail.

Clemency Petitions


Savarkar applied to the Bombay Government for certain concessions in connection with his sentences. However, by Government letter No. 2022, dated 4 April 1911, his application was rejected and he was informed that the question of remitting the second sentence of transportation for life would be considered in due course on the expiry of the first sentence of transportation for life.[40] A month after arriving in the Cellular Jail, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Savarkar submitted his first clemency petition on 30 August 1911. This petition was rejected on 3 September 1911.[41]


Savarkar submitted his next clemency petition on 14 November 1913 and presented it personally to the Home Member of the Governor General's council, Sir Reginald Craddock.[42] In his letter, he described himself as a "prodigal son" longing to return to the "parental doors of the government".[a] He wrote that his release from the jail will recast the faith of many Indians in the British rule. Also, he said "Moreover, my conversion to the constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide. I am ready to serve the government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me in jail, nothing can be got in comparison to what would be otherwise."[44]

Mercy petition by Veer Savarkar

In 1917, Savarkar submitted another clemency petition, this time for a general amnesty of all political prisoners. Savarkar was informed on 1 February 1918 that the clemency petition was placed before the British colonial government.[45] In December 1919, there was a Royal proclamation by King George V. The Paragraph 6 of this proclamation included a declaration of Royal clemency to political offenders.[46] In view of Royal proclamation, Savarkar submitted his fourth clemency[47] petition to the British colonial government on 30 March 1920,[48] in which he stated that "So far from believing in the militant school of the Bukanin type, I do not contribute even to the peaceful and philosophical anarchism of a Kuropatkin [sic.] or a Tolstoy. And as to my revolutionary tendencies in the past- it is not only now for the object of sharing the clemency but years before this have I informed of and written to the Government in my petitions (1918, 1914) about my firm intention to abide by the constitution and stand by it as soon as a beginning was made to frame it by Mr. Montagu. Since that the Reforms and then the Proclamation have only confirmed me in my views and recently I have publicly avowed my faith in and readiness to stand by the side of orderly and constitutional development."[49]

This petition was rejected on 12 July 1920 by the British colonial government.[50] After considering the petition, the British colonial government contemplated releasing Ganesh Savarkar but not Vinayak Savarkar. The rationale for doing so was stated as follows[51]

It may be observed that if Ganesh is released and Vinayak is retained in custody, the latter will become in some measure a hostage for the former, who will see that his own misconduct does not jeopardize his brother's chances of release at some future date.

Savarkar signed a statement endorsing his trial, verdict, and British law, and renouncing violence, a bargain for freedom.

Ratnagiri years under restricted freedom

On 2 May 1921, the Savarkar brothers were transferred from Andaman to mainland India with Vinayak being sent to a jail in Ratnagiri, and Ganesh to Bijapur Jail. During his incarceration in Ratnagiri jail in 1922, Vinayak wrote his "Essentials of Hindutva" that formulated his theory of Hindutva.[52] Ganesh (Babarao) Savarkar was unconditionally released from jail in 1922.[53] On 6 January 1924 Vinayak was released, but was restricted to Ratnagiri District. Soon after his release, he started working on the consolidation of Hindu society or Hindu Sangathan.[54] The colonial authorities provided a bungalow for him and he was allowed visitors.[55] During his internment, he met influential people such as Mahatma Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar.[citation needed] Nathuram Godse, who later assassinated Gandhi, also met Savarkar for the first time as a nineteen-year-old in 1929.[56] Savarkar became a prolific writer during his years of restricted freedom in Ratnagiri. His publishers, however, needed to have a disclaimer that they were wholly divorced from politics. Savarkar remained restricted to Ratnagiri district until 1937. At that time, he was unconditionally released by the newly elected government of Bombay presidency.[57]

Leader of the Hindu Mahasabha

Savarkar as president of the Hindu Mahasabha, during the Second World War, advanced the slogan "Hinduize all Politics and Militarize Hindudom" and decided to support the British war effort in India seeking military training for the Hindus.[58] When the Congress launched the Quit India movement in 1942, Savarkar criticised it and asked Hindus to stay active in the war effort and not disobey the government;[59] he also urged the Hindus to enlist in the armed forces to learn the "arts of war".[60]

Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar's leadership organized Hindu Militarization Boards which recruited armed forces for helping the British in World War 2.[15]

He assailed the British proposals for transfer of power, attacking both the Congress and the British for making concessions to Muslim separatists. Soon after independence, Syama Prasad Mukherjee resigned as vice-president of the Hindu Mahasabha dissociating himself from its Akhand Hindustan (Undivided India) plank, which implied undoing partition.[61]

Opposition to Quit India Movement

Under Savarkar, the Hindu Mahasabha openly opposed the call for the Quit India Movement and boycotted it officially.[14] Savarkar even went to the extent of writing a letter titled "Stick to your Posts", in which he instructed Hindu Sabhaites who happened to be "members of municipalities, local bodies, legislatures or those serving in the army ... to stick to their posts" across the country, and not to join the Quit India Movement at any cost.[14]

Alliance with Muslim League and others

The Indian National Congress won a massive victory in the 1937 Indian provincial elections, decimating the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha. However, in 1939, the Congress ministries resigned in protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's action of declaring India to be a belligerent in the Second World War without consulting the Indian people. This led to the Hindu Mahasabha, under Savarkar's presidency, joining hands with the Muslim League and other parties to form governments, in certain provinces. Such coalition governments were formed in Sindh, NWFP, and Bengal.[56]

In Sindh, Hindu Mahasabha members joined Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah's Muslim League government. In Savarkar's own words,

"Witness the fact that only recently in Sind, the Sind-Hindu-Sabha on invitation had taken the responsibility of joining hands with the League itself in running coalition government[62][63][64]

In the North West Frontier Province, Hindu Mahasabha members joined hands with Sardar Aurangzeb Khan of the Muslim League to form a government in 1943. The Mahasabha member of the cabinet was Finance Minister Mehar Chand Khanna.[65][66]

In Bengal, Hindu Mahasabha joined the Krishak Praja Party led Progressive Coalition ministry of Fazlul Haq in December 1941.[67] Savarkar appreciated the successful functioning of the coalition government.[63][62]

Arrest and acquittal in Gandhi's assassination

A group photo of people accused in the Mahatma Gandhi's murder case. Standing: Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge. Sitting: Narayan Apte, Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare

Following the assassination of Gandhi on 30 January 1948, police arrested the assassin Nathuram Godse and his alleged accomplices and conspirators. He was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Godse was the editor of Agrani – Hindu Rashtra, a Marathi daily from Pune which was run by the company "The Hindu Rashtra Prakashan Ltd" (The Hindu Nation Publications). This company had contributions from such eminent persons as Gulabchand Hirachand, Bhalji Pendharkar, and Jugalkishore Birla. Savarkar had invested 15000 in the company. Savarkar, a former president of the Hindu Mahasabha, was arrested on 5 February 1948, from his house in Shivaji Park, and kept under detention in the Arthur Road Prison, Bombay. He was charged with murder, conspiracy to murder, and abetment to murder. A day before his arrest, Savarkar in a public written statement, as reported in The Times of India, Bombay dated 7 February 1948, termed Gandhi's assassination a fratricidal crime, endangering India's existence as a nascent nation.[68][69][70] The mass of papers seized from his house had revealed nothing that could remotely be connected with Gandhi's murder.[71]: Chapter 12  Due to lack of evidence, Savarkar was arrested under the Preventive Detention Act.[71]: Chapter 11 

Badge's testimony

Godse claimed full responsibility for planning and carrying out the assassination. However, according to the Approver Digambar Badge, on 17 January 1948, Nathuram Godse went to have a last darshan (audience/interview) with Savarkar in Bombay before the assassination. While Badge and Shankar waited outside, Nathuram and Apte went in. On coming out Apte told Badge that Savarkar blessed them "Yashasvi houn ya" ("यशस्वी होऊन या", be successful and return). Apte also said that Savarkar predicted that Gandhi's 100 years were over and there was no doubt that the task would be successfully finished.[72][73] However Badge's testimony was not accepted as the approver's evidence lacked independent corroboration and hence Savarkar was acquitted.[citation needed]

In the last week of August 1974, Mr. Manohar Malgonkar saw Digamber Badge several times and in particular, questioned him about the veracity of his testimony against Savarkar.[71]: Notes  Badge insisted to Mr. Manohar Malgonkar that "even though he had blurted out the full story of the plot as far as he knew, without much persuasion, he had put up a valiant struggle against being made to testify against Savarkar".[71]: Chapter 12  In the end, Badge gave in. He agreed to say on oath that he saw Nathuram Godse and Apte with Savarkar and that Savarkar, within Badge's hearing, had blessed their venture.[71]: Chapter 12 

Kapur commission

On 12 November 1964, at a religious program organized in Pune to celebrate the release of Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa and Vishnu Karkare from jail after the expiry of their sentences, G. V. Ketkar, grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak,[74] former editor of Kesari and then editor of "Tarun Bharat", who presided over the function, gave information of a conspiracy to kill Gandhi, about which he professed knowledge six months before the act. Ketkar was arrested. A public furor ensued both outside and inside the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and both houses of the Indian parliament. Under the pressure of 29 members of parliament and public opinion the then Union home minister Gulzarilal Nanda appointed Gopal Swarup Pathak, M. P. and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India as a Commission of Inquiry to re-investigate the conspiracy to murder Gandhi. The central government intended on conducting a thorough inquiry with the help of old records in consultation with the government of Maharashtra. Pathak was given three months to conduct his inquiry; subsequently, Jevanlal Kapur, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, was appointed chairman of the commission.[75]

The commission's reinvestigation saw Savarkar's secretary and bodyguard to have testified that Savarkar met with Godse and Apte right before Gandhi was killed.[76]

The commission was provided with evidence not produced in the court; especially the testimony of two of Savarkar's close aides – Appa Ramachandra Kasar, his bodyguard, and Gajanan Vishnu Damle, his secretary.[77] The testimony of Mr. Kasar and Mr. Damle was already recorded by Bombay police on 4 March 1948,[78]: 317  but apparently, these testimonies were not presented before the court during the trial. In these testimonies, it is said that Godse and Apte visited Savarkar on or about 23 or 24 January,[78]: 317  which was when they returned from Delhi after the bomb incident. Damle deposed that Godse and Apte saw Savarkar in the middle of January and sat with him (Savarkar) in his garden. The C. I. D. Bombay was keeping vigil on Savarkar from 21 to 30 January 1948.[78]: 291–294  The crime report from C. I. D. does not mention Godse or Apte meeting Savarkar during this time.[78]: 291–294 

Justice Kapur concluded: "All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group."[77][79][80]

The arrest of Savarkar was mainly based on approver Digambar Badge's testimony. The commission did not re-interview Digambar Badge.[78] At the time of inquiry of the commission, Badge was alive and working in Bombay.

Later years

After Gandhi's assassination, Savarkar's home in Dadar, Bombay was stoned by angry mobs. After he was acquitted of the allegations related to Gandhi's assassination and released from jail, Savarkar was arrested by the government for making "Hindu nationalist speeches"; he was released after agreeing to give up political activities. He continued addressing the social and cultural elements of Hindutva. He resumed political activism after the ban on it was lifted; it was however limited until his death in 1966 because of ill health.

In 1956, he opposed B. R. Ambedkar's conversion to Buddhism calling it a "useless act", to which Ambedkar responded by publicly questioning the use of epithet ‘Veer’ (meaning brave) by Savarkar.[81]

On 22 November 1957, Raja Mahendra Pratap moved a bill in Lok Sabha to recognise the service to the country of people like Vir Savarkar, Barindra Kumar Ghosh and Bhupendranath Datta. But the bill was defeated with 48 votes favouring it and 75 against it. This bill was also supported by communist leader like A. K. Gopalan.[82][83]


On 8 November 1963, Savarkar's wife, Yamunabai, died. On 1 February 1966, Savarkar renounced medicines, food, and water which was termed as prayopavesha (fast until death).[84] Before his death, he had written an article titled "Atmahatya Nahi Atmaarpan" in which he argued that when one's life mission is over and the ability to serve society is left no more, it is better to end the life at will rather than waiting for death. His condition was described to have become as "extremely serious" before his death on 26 February 1966 at his residence in Bombay (now Mumbai), and that he faced difficulty in breathing; efforts to revive him failed, and was declared dead at 11:10 a.m. (IST) that day. Prior to his death, Savarkar had asked his relatives to perform only his funeral and do away with the rituals of the 10th and 13th day of the Hindu faith.[85] Accordingly, his last rites were performed at an electric crematorium in Bombay's Sonapur locality by his son Vishwas the following day.[86]

There was no official mourning by the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee or the central government in Delhi during the time of his death. Not a single minister from the Maharashtra Cabinet showed up to pay homage and respect to Savarkar.[87][note 1] The political indifference to Savarkar has also continued after his death.[note 2] After the death of Nehru, the Congress government, under Prime Minister Shastri, started to pay him a monthly pension.[89]

Religious and political views


In contrast with Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, who were "men of religion" who introduced reforms in the society and put Hinduism in front of the world, Savarkar mixed politics and religion and started an extreme form of Hindu nationalism.[90]

During his incarceration, Savarkar's views began turning increasingly towards Hindu cultural and political nationalism, and the next phase of his life remained dedicated to this cause.[91] In the brief period he spent at the Ratnagiri jail, Savarkar published his ideological treatise – Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? in 1923.[92] In this work, Savarkar promotes a farsighted new vision of Hindu social and political consciousness. Savarkar began describing a "Hindu" as a patriotic inhabitant of Bharatavarsha, venturing beyond a religious identity.[91] While emphasising the need for patriotic and social unity of all Hindu communities, he described Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism as one and the same. He outlined his vision of a "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu Nation) as "Akhand Bharat" (United India), purportedly stretching across the entire Indian subcontinent.[93] He defined Hindus as being neither Aryan nor Dravidian but as "People who live as children of a common motherland, adoring a common holyland."[94]

According to Sharma, Savarkar's celebration and justification of violence against [British] women and children in his description of the Mutiny of 1857, "transformed Hindutva into the very image of Islam that he defined and found so intolerably objectionable".[95]

Scholars, historians and Indian politicians have been divided in their interpretation of Savarkar's ideas. A self-described atheist,[96] Savarkar regards being Hindu as a cultural and political identity. He often stressed social and community unity between Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, to the exclusion of Muslims and Christians. Savarkar saw Muslims and Christians as "misfits" in the Indian civilization who could not truly be a part of the nation.[97] He argued that the holiest sites of Islam and Christianity are in the Middle East and not India, hence the loyalty of Muslims and Christians to India is divided.[97][98]

After his release from jail on 6 January 1924,[99] Savarkar helped found the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha organisation, aiming to work for the social and cultural preservation of Hindu heritage and civilisation.[100]

Focusing his energies on writing, Savarkar authored the Hindu Pad-pada-shahi[59] – a book documenting the Maratha empire – and My Transportation for Life – an account of his early revolutionary days, arrest, trial and incarceration.[101] He also wrote and published a collection of poems, plays and novels. He also wrote a book named Majhi Janmathep ("My Life-term") about his experience in Andaman prison.[102]

Hindu orthodoxy

He was an ardent critique of a number of Hindu religious practices he saw as irrational and viewed them as a hindrance to the material progress of the Hindus. He believed that religion is an unimportant aspect of "Hindu identity".

He was opposed to the caste system and in his 1931 essay titled Seven Shackles of the Hindu Society, he wrote "One of the most important components of such injunctions of the past that we have blindly carried on and which deserves to be thrown in the dustbins of history is the rigid caste system".[103][104]

However, in 1939, Savarkar assured that his party Hindu Mahasabha won't necessarily support entry of the untouchables into temples. Savarkar said, "Thus the Party will not introduce or support compulsory Legislature regarding Temple Entry by the untouchables etc. in old temples beyond the limit to which the non-Hindus are allowed by custom as in force today."[105][106]


In a speech before a 20,000 strong audience at Pune on 1 August 1938, Savarkar stood by Germany's right to Nazism and Italy's to Fascism; their achievement of unprecedent glory in the world-stage and a successful inculcation of national solidarity justified those choices.[107] Savarkar criticized Nehru for denouncing Germany and Italy, proclaiming that "crores of Hindu Sanghatanists in India [..] cherish[ed] no ill-will towards Germany or Italy or Japan."[107] He proclaimed his support for the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in the same breath.[107]

As World War II become imminent, Savarkar had initially advocated a policy of neutralism centered on India's geostrategic equations but his rhetoric grew coarser with time and he expressed consistent support for Hitler's policy about Jews.[107][108] In a speech on 14 October, it was suggested that Hitler's ways be adopted for dealing with Indian Muslims.[107] On 11 December, he characterized the Jews as a communal force.[107] Next March, Savarkar would welcome Germany's revival of Aryan culture, their glorification of Swastika, and the "crusade" against Aryan enemies — it was hoped that German victory would finally invigorate the Hindus of India.[107]

On 5 August 1939, Savarkar highlighted how a common strand of "thought, religion, language, and culture" was essential to nationality thus preventing the Germans and Jews from being considerable as one nation.[107] By the year end, he was directly equating the Muslims of India with German Jews — in the words of Chetan Bhatt, both were suspected of harboring extra-national loyalties and became illegitimate presences in an organic nation.[107][108][109] These speeches circulated in German newspapers with Nazi Germany even allotting a point-of-contact person for engaging with Savarkar, who was making sincere efforts to forge a working relationship with the Nazis. Eventually, Savarkar would be gifted with a copy of Mein Kampf.[107]

Nazis and Jews

Savarkar supported Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy. In 1939, he deemed that "Germans and the Jews could not be regarded as a nation". In the same year, he compared Indian Muslims with the Jews of Germany by saying "Indian Muslims are on the whole more inclined to identify themselves and their interests with Muslims outside India than Hindus who live next door, like Jews in Germany".[110][111]

In 1941, Savarkar supported Jews resettling their fatherland of Israel, in what he believed would defend the world against Islamic aggression.[108][112] In his letter dated December 19, 1947, Savarkar celebrated "the establishment of the independent Jewish State in Palestine on moral as well as political grounds" while adding that "the Jewish people bear no political ill-will towards Hindudom".[113][114]

It remains unknown whether Savarkar withdrew his support for Nazi Germany after the Holocaust became common knowledge.[108] However, on 15 January 1961 he had spoken favorably of Hitler's Nazism against Nehru's "cowardly democracy".[108]

Two-nation theory

In his earlier writings, Savarkar argued for "Indian independence from British rule", whereas in later writings he focused on "Hindu independence from Christians and Muslims".[115] In his 1909 book The Indian War of Independence, Savarkar emphasizes Hindu-Muslim unity, stating that they worked together for "freeing their country" during the 1857 uprising. In his introduction to the book, Savarkar states that the feeling of hatred against the Muslims was necessary during Shivaji's period, but it would be "unjust and foolish" to nurse such hatred now.[116]

By 1923, when his Essentials of Hindutva was published, Savarkar no longer emphasized the Hindu-Muslim unity, and primarily focused on "Hindus" rather than "Indians".[117] His writings on Hindutva emerged immediately after he was moved from the Cellular Jail to a prison in Ratnagiri in 1921, and therefore, later scholars have speculated if his stay in these prisons contributed to a change in his views. These scholars point to Savarkar's claims that the Muslim warders at the Cellular Jail treated the Muslim prisoners favourably, while mistreating Hindus; the pan-Islamic Khilafat Movement may have also influenced his views about Muslims while he stayed at Ratnagiri during 1921–1923. According to Bhai Parmanand, his fellow prisoner at the Cellular Jail during 1915–1920, Savarkar had already formed his ideas about Hindutva before they met.[118]

Savarkar in 1937 during the 19th session of the Hindu Mahasabha in Ahmedabad supported two-nation theory.[119] He said:-

There are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India. India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogenous nation. On the contrary, there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Muslims, in India.[120]

In the 1940s, the two-nation theory was supported by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Savarkar.[121] Savarkar declared on August 15, 1943 in Nagpur:

I have no quarrel with Mr Jinnah's two-nation theory. We Hindus are a nation by ourselves and it is a historical fact that Hindus and Muslims are two nations.[122]

Savarkar not only talked of Hindudom, Hindu Nation and Hindu Raj, but he wanted to depend upon the Sikhs in the Punjab to establish a Sikhistan. Savarkar assured the Sikhs that "when the Muslims woke from their day-dreams of Pakistan, they would see established instead a Sikhistan in the Punjab."[123] Savarkar further instigated the Sikhs by claiming that Sikhs previously occupied Afghanistan when they were not many and now there are millions of Sikhs.[124]


Since his time in jail, Savarkar was known for his anti-Muslim writings.[125][115] Historians including Rachel McDermott, Leonard A. Gordon, Ainslie Embree, Frances Pritchett and Dennis Dalton state that Savarkar promoted an anti-Muslim form of Hindu nationalism.[126]

Savarkar saw Muslims in the Indian police and military to be "potential traitors". He advocated that India reduce the number of Muslims in the military, police and public service and ban Muslims from owning or working in munitions factories.[127] Savarkar criticized Gandhi for being concerned about Indian Muslims.[b]

In his 1963 book Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, Savarkar says Muslims and Christians wanted to "destroy" Hinduism.[115]


Historian Vinayak Chaturvedi writes that in a 1937 speech Savarkar said that "Kitchen and children were the main duties of women" and suggested that they have healthy children. Unlike Tilak who said that women should not be allowed education at all as reading may make them "immoral" and "insubordinate", Savarkar held a less extreme view. Savarkar did not oppose education of women but suggested that the education focus on how they could be good mothers and create a generation of patriotic children. In an essay, "Women's beauty and duty", he stated that a woman's main duty was to her children, her home and her country. As per Savarkar, any woman digressing from her domestic duties was "morally guilty of breach of trust".[129]

In his 1963 book Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, Savarkar advocated use of rape as political tool.[130] He accused Muslim women of actively supporting Muslim men's atrocities against Hindu women, Savarkar wrote that young and beautiful Muslim girls should be captured, converted and presented to Maratha warriors to reward them, stating that the Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan had similarly distributed Hindu girls among his warriors. He further wrote:[131]

"Let the sultans and their peers take a pledge that in the event of a Hindu victory our molestation and detestable lot shall be avenged on the Muslim women. Once they are haunted with this dreadful apprehension that the Muslim women too, stand in the same predicament in the case the Hindus win, the future Muslim conquerors will never dare to think of such molestation of Hindu women."

As per Sharma, based on Swami Ramdas's teaching, Savarkar justifies the killing of countless British women and children in 1857. Sharma has translated some passages from "Savarkar Samgraha" which is originally in Savarkar's native language into English to give examples.[132]

In Jhansi, 12 women along with 23 children and 75 men were killed. Savarkar calls this killing of the British whites as a Bali or "Holy Sacrifice".[132]

On page 202 of Volume 5, Savarkar Samgraha, in his native language, Savarkar writes(translated by Sharma):

Women had little children in their laps and these children were clinging on to their mothers. These women, infants and older children were guilty of being white and were decapitated with a black sword[132]

When some men, women and children were killed in the Ganga river, Savarkar describes this as a "celebration" of the anniversary of plassey on page 196.[132] In Kanpur, when 150 children and women were killed he quotes unemotionally as per Sharma in his native language that a the butchers entered Bibigarh ..and sea of white blood spread all over'.[132] In another incident on 16 May, Savarkar describes the fate of English women and children as follows:

If some woman or child pleaded for mercy, people shouted: "Revenge for Meerut's chains, revenge for slavery, revenge for the ammunition shed. The vengeful sword then decapitated the pleading head[132]


Savarkar on 1970 stamp of India

He is known among followers by the honorific prefix Veer meaning "brave".[133][134][135] The airport at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar's capital was renamed Veer Savarkar International Airport in 2002.[136] One of the commemorative blue plaques affixed on India House fixed by the Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England reads "Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, 1883–1966, Indian patriot and philosopher lived here".[137]

  • A commemorative postage stamp was released by government of India in 1970.[138][139]
  • A portrait of Savarkar was unveiled in the Indian Parliament in 2003.[140]
  • The Shiv Sena party has demanded that the Indian Government posthumously confer upon him India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.[141] Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief, while reiterating this demand for Bharat Ratna in 2017, has also suggested that a replica of the prison cell where Savarkar was imprisoned should be built in Mumbai and the youth should be educated about Savarkar's contribution towards the 'Hindu Rashtra' and the Indian freedom struggle.[142]
PM Narendra Modi pays homage to Savarkar, on his birth anniversary, at Parliament House, New Delhi on 28 May 2014

In 1926, two years after the release of Savarkar from the prison, a biography titled "Life of Barrister Savarkar" and authored by a certain "Chitragupta" was published. A revised version was published in 1939 with additions by Indra Prakash of the Hindu Mahasabha. A second edition of the book was published in 1987 by Veer Savarkar Prakashan, the official publisher of writings by Savarkar. In its preface, Ravindra Vaman Ramdas deduced that, "Chitragupta is none other than Veer Savarkar".[143][144][134]

In popular culture


He wrote 38 books in English and Marathi,[150] consisting in many essays, two novels called Moplah Rebellion and the Transportation,[151] poetry and plays, the best-known of his books being his historical study The Indian war of independence, 1857 and his pamphlet Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?.[152]


  1. ^ He met Savarkar, who is said to have submitted a clemency plea in which he described himself as the "prodigal son" eager to return "to the parental doors of the Government"[43]
  2. ^ He described Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolence as "absolutely sinful" and criticized Gandhi's often-expressed concern for the well-being of India's Muslims.[128]
  1. ^ After his death, since Savarkar was championing militarisation, some thought that it would be fitting if his mortal remains were to be carried on a gun-carriage. A request to that effect was made to the then Defence Minister, Y.B. Chavan. But Chavan turned down the proposal and not a single minister from the Maharashtra Cabinet showed up to the cremation ground to pay homage to Savarkar. In New Delhi, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha turned down a request that it pay homage to Savarkar.
  2. ^ When Y.B. Chavan, as the Home Minister of India, went to the Andaman Islands; he was asked whether he would like to visit Savarkar's jail but he was not interested.[citation needed] When Morarji Desai visited as Prime Minister to the Andaman islands, he too refused to visit Savarkar in his prison cell.[88]


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Further reading

  • Kumar, Megha (November–December 2006). "History and Gender in Savarkar's Nationalist Writings". Social Scientist. 34 (11/12): 33–50. JSTOR 27644182.

External links