From Dust to Doyen
1. Mahar battalion - During the first quarter of the 1941, BRA managed to convince the Govt to raise a Mahar battalion. Savarkar, who wished the Hindus to be reborn into a martial race, expressed his hope that under the guidance of BRA the Mahar brethren would be re-animated with the military qualities & their military uplift would contribute to the consolidation of the Hindus. In July 1941, the Viceroy expanded his Executive Council by including eight representative Indians & established a Defence Advisory Committee. BRA was appointed on the Committee but not on the Council to which he protested. It was due to BRA’s efforts that the Bombay Govt had to revoke its order for demand of additional levy on farmers.
Two weeks later BRA addressed meetings stressing the need for joining the military forces. He asked Mahar youths to suspend their studies & qualify themselves for military commissions & preserve their martial traditions. Friends BRA & Savarkar were amongst the only Indian leaders to urge the Hindus to join the armed forces. A reading of BRA’s book ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’ will tell you how the British increased the % of Muslims in the Indian Army to nearly 40 % with intent to use it against the Hindus who were agitating for independence. BRA & Savarkar knew this, which is why they asked Hindus to join the army in large numbers. Their efforts successeded because when Pakistan attacked Jammu & Kashmir in 1947-48 it was an Indian army that defeated them.
The political deadlock continued. Congress leaders were in jail with Gandhi outside. Some thought that Gandhi would start a fast unto death for Hindu Muslim unity, for the Muslims had started Pakistani riots and Jinnah said that only a change of heart would ease the tension. Gandhi, however, clearly realized the historical mistake & futility of his slogan which had drummed into the people for twenty years that freedom would not come without Hindu Muslim unity. Without Muslim support he was now on the eve of a ‘do or die struggle’.
Friends Gandhi was in some ways a realist. He would go for a fast unto death to pressurize Hindus not to retaliate against Muslim atrocities or to state that DC are Hindus but never did he fast to pressurize the Muslims to stop their violent acts against Hindus. WHY? He did not want to die, because Gandhi knew that his fast unto death would have no impact on the Muslims. It would actually be fast to death!
2. Patriot, Cripps Mission - In the middle of Feb 1942, there was a discussion at the Wagle hall, Bombay on Thoughts of Pakistan. Acharya V Donde presided over the meeting. BRA rose to reply to the debate, he said at the outset that he would not waste his words who thought that Pakistan was a debatable subject at all. Quote BRA ‘To bring down the preponderance of the Muslims in the Indian Army and to make the army safe, it is wise to let out the hostile element. Do not be under the false impression that Pakistan would be able to spread its Muslim empire over India. (Subsequent events have proved BRA wrong, surprised because he had an excellent understanding of the Muslim mind). The Hindus will make it lick the dust. I confess I have my quarrel with the caste Hindus over some points but I take a vow before you that I shall lay down my life in defense of our land’. Applause.
As a solution to the impasse in India BRA suggested to Stafford Cripps that the British govt should promise to raise India to a Dominion Status within 3 years from the date of peace, and if the Indian parties failed to produce an agreed solution within one year from the date of signing of the armistice, the dispute should be submitted to the International Tribunal for a decision, and Britain should declare that she would undertake to give effect to it as a part of the Dominion Constitution for India. He rejected Jinnah’s demand for 50 % representation as monstrous. Those who criticized this scheme said they were surprised that the historian & constitutionalist in BRA should have expected the Muslim League to consent to a decision of the International Tribunal.
Meanwhile the Empire was cracking impelled by reverses. The Brits panicked & Stafford Cripps came to India sooner than planned. After discussion with all Cripps suggested that a Constituent Assembly be convened immediately after cessation of hostilities. It was to draft the constitution in co-operation with the Indian States, but the right of joining or staying out of the Indian Union was given to the Provinces & the Constituent Assembly was to enter into a treaty with the British Govt.
Gandhi called it a post-dated cheque; Savarkar rejected it as a scheme to balkanize India. The Muslim League rejected it, as it did not contain a definite announcement in favor of Pakistan. The Congress leaders who were more keen on transfer of power than the balkanization of India, swallowed the pill of the division of India, but were straining at the gnat of the Defense Portfolio. BRA too rejected the proposals as it bound the DC to a Hindu rule and would lead them as they feared to the black days of their ancient past.
3. 50 Bday The new policy of Britian w.r.t. the DC compelled to make from a departure from his role as a labor leader & resume leadership of the DC. It was decided after a gap of ten years, to hold an All India DC Conference at Nagpur, in July 1942 with a view to creating an All India organization with distinct purpose & cooperation between provinces.
BRA turned 50 on 14/4/1942. He was felicitated in Bombay & Pune. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the women’s branch of the Rohidas Tarun Sudharak Sangh he urged the youth to emulate the spirit of Kacha, a mythological hero, in not deviating from the purpose of life. It was characteristic of BRA that whenever he spoke before his people he cited inspiring quotes from the Mahabharata such as the love of self-respect of Dronacharya, the story of Yayati & devotion of Kacha.
A huge function was held on 19/4/ at Chowpatty, Bombay. The media, English & Marathi expressed their appreciation of the services & scholarship of BRA. The most important appreciation came from Savarkar, ‘BRA’s personality, erudition & capacity to lead and organize would have by themselves marked him out as an outstanding asset to our Nation. But in addition to that the inestimable services he has rendered to our Motherland in trying to stamp out untouchability and the results he has achieved in instilling confidence in millions of the DC, constitute an abiding, patriotic as well as humanitarian achievement. I wish BRA a long, healthy & eventful life’.
Addressing a huge gathering at Kamgar Maidan, Bombay he asked the mammoth gathering to discontinue to habit of celebrating his birthday, for according to him, a society which idolized & raised a mere man to the level of God was set well on the path of destruction. Reviewing the progress of the DC, he said there was considerable improvement in their political, social & economic conditions. He said that DC willingly or unwillingly formed a limb of Hindu society and added that at Mahad/Nasik he had tried to make the Hindus accept the DC on terms of equality but the desired effect was not achieved. He sounded a note of warning to the British that any Scheme, which did not recognize their legitimate aspirations & rights, would be resisted by them with every means in their power.
4. BRA Grows in stature & views on Women - Come June 1942 and the Executive Council was expanded to include BRA, C P Ramaswami Iyer, Muhammad Usman amongst others. BRA’s appointment was welcomed by all, never before had an Untouchable Hindu occupied such a post. Moreover BRA was the first mass leader to be appointed to the E Council. BRA was felicitated by many organizations.
The All India DC Conference was scheduled to meet on July 18/19. A crowd of 40,000 people gave a thundering ovation to BRA & N Shivraj. Leaders from Punjab, Bengal & Madras had come to attend. BRA said that he was happy to announce that DC had acquired a great degree of political consciousness, which few communities in India had. There was progress in education & acquiring jobs in the institutions of public service. Above all progress made by the untouchable women was encouraging & astonishing. It was not the result of Hindu charity but was entirely the result of their own labor. The basis of his politics was that the Untouchables were not a sub-section of the Hindus, but a distinct element in the national life of India, as separate & distinct as the Muslims. Thus he wanted separate political rights as against the Hindus. Gandhi, he declared was their greatest political opponent. He offered unconditional support to the war. ‘My final words’ he concluded, ‘of advice to you is to educate, agitate, organize, have faith in yourself’.
BRA addressed two more conferences at Nagpur. One was the DC Women’s conference. BRA said he was a believer in women’s organization. In the eradication of social evils they rendered great services. He measured the progress of a community by the degree of progress, which women had achieved. Friends clearly BRA believed in the power & empowerment of women. BRA also addressed the Samata Sainik Dal Conference where he observed that he had love for the principle of non-violence, but he differentiated non-violence from abject surrender. He said that to destroy evildoers was the principle element in the doctrine of ahimsa. Shakti (strength) and shila (character) should be their ideal.