Life story of Veer Savarkar

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The Rising Leader   

S passed his matric exams in December 1901 and left Nasik for Pune in Jan 1902. What was the state of Pune then? Exactly a year ago, the great social reformer Ranade had passed away. R.P. Paranjpe had just returned from England with great academic success. G.K. Gokhale was about to leave the Fergusson College and enter into a political career. Tilak was becoming a formidable leader. The Congress was India’s sole spokesman, with the Moderates dominating it. They believed in the permanency of British rule in India.

After joining Fergusson College in 1902, blessed with the gift of thought and speech S with soon able to impress one and all resulting in the formation of a Savarkar group. The group started a hand-written weekly named Aryan Weekly, in which S often wrote articles on patriotism, literature, history, and science. One of those brilliant articles was Saptapadi in which he dealt with the seven stages of evolution that have to be gone thought by a subject nation. He had studied Kalidas and Bhavabhuti. Of the English poets, Shakespeare and Milton influenced him much. S often gave scholarly talks on the revolutions in Italy, Netherlands and America.

In 1903, at the opening of the new session of the college, he amidst deafening applause gave a talk on India’s glorious past and bewailed her loss of freedom. His speech infused courage into the craven-hearted and fired them all with the spirit of patriotism. Then his Professor said, “Young men, you need not take S seriously. He is a Devil! S and his group used Swadeshi goods and simultaneously took care of their studies, moral, physical, intellectual development. On important occasions S saw Tilak whose association with the revolutionaries was legendary. Tilak must have gauged S who by then had become the leader of the youth.

A change in political tone was coming on with the growing tension; a new spirit of self-reliance began to gain ground. Tilak played a role in this. At the same time, Lala Lajpat Rai, Surendranath Banerjee and Gokhale encouraged people with their words. The Swadeshi Movement too was gaining ground. Opposition to the partition of Bengal was coming to a head in October 1905; Hindus opposed it while Muslims supported it. Tilak had made the partition of Bengal an All India issue. S resolved to unfurl the banner of boycott of foreign goods and urged his countrymen to stop buying everything that was English. By now S had become a prominent figure in political, social gatherings of Pune.
Thus Poona had the first big bonfire of foreign cloth in India! Credit goes to S. Indu Prakash, a leading paper of the moderates criticized S. The Principal of Ferguson College fined S Rs 10 and expelled from college. There were two firsts to S’s credit. One he was the first Indian leader to make a bonfire of foreign cloth, two he was the first Indian student who was rusticated from a Government-aided institution for political reasons.

This incident was important for another reason. Gandhi criticized the bonfire and so did his Guru Gokhale while Tilak supported it. Thus, there emerged two schools of thought with differing ideologies, later on known as Moderates and Extremists. It is ironical that 17 years later, the same G, as organizer of the Civil Disobedience Movement, made a public bonfire of foreign clothes in Bombay on Nov 17, 1921.

Notwithstanding the turmoil S passed his B.A. exams with congratulations pouring in from all over Maharashtra. S the prolific writer was coming to the front now. During this period he composed his famous ballads on Tanaji and Baji Prabhu. These ballads inspired the youth, but were soon proscribed by the Brits. However, they attained the popularity of folk songs in Maharashtra for over four decades. S’s lyric of patriotism, inspiring songs on heroes, hyms thrilled the people of Maharashtra and he was hailed as a rebel poet. Among the memorable essays was “Why should we celebrate the festivals of historic personalities? He said it was to pay our national gratitude we owed to these historic souls. They should be celebrated as a mark of remembrance and reverence of the immense good these benevolent men have done to the world and because they have sacred sanction of ancient traditions.

In 1902, S had written in the Kal one essay, which he concluded with a prophetic vision. “Hindus are responsible for the poverty and disorganization of Hindustan. But if they ever desire to attain prosperity, they must remain Hindus”. This bold characteristic of S’s nationalism distinguished him from Tilak and others.

S’s efforts to build up his secret revolutionary society continued unabated. While at college he convened in 1904 a meeting of some two hundred select members of the Mitra Mela. Its name was now changed to Abhinava Bharat. Now the party extended its political and revolutionary activities all over India. It resembled the Young Italy of Mazzini or the revolutionary societies of Russia.

After graduating from Pune, S went to Mumbai to study law. S continued with his political activities in Mumbai. He contributed to Vihari, a local Marathi weekly and made it the mouthpiece of Abhinava Bharat. S was now the acclaimed leader of the revolutionary movement in Maharashtra and was invited to functions all over the state.

He was awarded a scholarship to study law in London by Pandit Shyamji Krishna Varma, then resident of London. He left Mumbai for London on June 9, 1906.

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