ByÂ Akshay Ranade:
“Savarkar spoke about ending the caste system- not for reform purpose but to identify the dalits as Hindus”, the PowerPoint slide emphatically declared. It was one of our Political Economy class and the topic for the discussion was “Hindu Communalism”. Now it’s quite customary to drag in Veer Savarkar and Hindutva in such discussions. While explaining this slide, professor explained to us that the essence behind talking about eradication of caste system was more of ‘political motive’ of Savarkar than any reform purpose. The slide also mentioned Savarkar’s idea of ‘assimilation’ i.e re-converting people to Hindu fold and ‘on the same grounds’ how he viewed Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism as sects of Hinduism. Being grown up admiring Savarkar’s work and his ideas, it took bit of time to register this ‘new’ accusation about him. I am already used to hear more of such banal and baseless criticism regarding him which include him being an intolerant towards other faiths, and that he was an extremist and had a ‘vital role to play’ in the assassination of Gandhi and so on and so forth – thus, it was not much of a task. One only needs to scan through the pages of the plethora of written treasures he left behind us to bunk all these theories as rubbish. After that discussion in the class I did a search for the same thing on the internet and it cast quite a descent hits for the same. But how does one comes to accept this complete distortion? It is this question I shall try to address.
To understand this ‘thesis’ of distortion its imperative to first understand what Savarkar felt about ‘Varna Vyawastha’ or caste system prevalent that time. It reflects from various of his writings that he believed the original system of the four varnas was based on the qualities (guna ) and actions (karma) of individuals. The categories were not supposed to be hereditary. He emphasized that castes should not be linked with special privileges and rights. The current caste system, he maintained was a mockery of the original system of four varnas (chaturvarnya) and should be abolished. Since all Hindus preserved caste distinctions it’s responsibility of all Hindus to abolish it. He himself being a Brahmin did not hesitate to criticize the upper caste (so called) for practicing such inhuman behavior with religious counter-parts. Sometimes I wonder if precisely for this reason, that he was a Brahmin, is it difficult for someone to believe that he did actually work for the downtrodden!
Another crucial point is that long before he could actively participate in the political activities, Savarkar had realized the need to eradication of the evils of untouchability and caste-system. As early as in 1920 from the Andamans, Savarkar wrote a letter in which he stated, “Just as I feel that I should rebel against foreign rule over Hindusthan, I feel I should rebel against caste discrimination and untouchability.” It becomes even more clear and debunks the notion that Savarkar had a narrow political reason for doing social reform. He says, “Untouchability should go mainly because unnecessarily considering our seven crore (seventy million) co-religionists “untouchables” and worse than animals is not only an insult to the human race but also a great insult to our soul. Eradication of untouchability is in the interests of our Hindu society and hence also it must go, but even if Hindu society were to be partially gain from that custom, we would have opposed it with the same vehemence….From the point of view of justice, dharma and humanism, it (fight against untouchability) is a duty…In the present circumstances, what will our gain in fighting it is a secondary question. This question of gain is an aapaddharma (duty to be done in certain exceptional circumstances) and eradication of untouchability is the foremost and absolute dharma.” (ref -Samagra Savarkar Vangmaya, vol. 3, p 483) It’s quite evident from several of his letters to his family and associates, how much he emphasized on this issue. It certainly did not fall out of the blue to his mind that calling off the caste-system would serve “some political motive”.
Apart from this, Savarkar was very sensitive over this issue. He wrote several poems on this subject. N S Bapat, one of Savarkar’s associates was an eyewitness when Savarkar composed his poem “Malaa devaache darshan gheu dyaa, dole bharun devas malaa paahu dya ” (“Let me have a glimpse of god, let me see god to my heart’s content”) in 1931. He writes that Savarkar must have shed at least a handful of tears when he composed this poem (Smritipushpay, author and publisher Bapat, NS, 1979, p 63). It is worth mentioning that the same Savarkar had remained unmoved when he heard the judge sentencing him to two Transportations for Life! While the prisoners died of the atrocities in the jail, Savarkar remained firm as rock in the most inhuman condition ever witnessed.
The wish Savarkar expresses to be carried out after his death should leave a little doubt in the reader’s mind that his concerns regarding the untouchability and downtrodden were not just ‘political’. He said, “I am confident that I shall live to see the eradication of untouchability. It is my fervent desire that after I die, my dead body should be lifted by Dhends, Doms (ex-untouchable castes) along with Brahmins and Banias and they should all cremate my body. Only then will my soul rest in peace” (Savarkar, Balarao; Hindu Samaj Sanrakshak Savarkar (Ratnagiri Parva), Veer Savarkar Prakashan; Mumbai; 1972, p.67).
So, there has been distortion and fabrication of facts. I do not see from where this thesis of ‘being just a political motive’ comes. Time and again our ‘sick’ulars have tried their best in their abilities to distort the glorious page of history of which Savarkar is an indivisible part. I do no see why when Mahatma Phule, DR Ambedkar worked for the downtrodden, which they most definitely did, is seen as reform and in case of Savarkar, when he too did try to do the same – is seen as a political motive with no basis at all! These prejudiced opinions, lacking facts, have harmed our history, to say nothing of the memory of the great souls, to a great deal. Yet we find very few ears to listen the truth. Strange!!!