Life story of Veer Savarkar

Book by Dhananjay Keer                                                                       Copyright Popular Prakashan Pvt Ltd

The Veer Savarkar Memorial at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park has played a revolutionary part in my life. In September 1998 the Indian Army had organized an exhibition on arms seized from Kashmiri militants. I got chatting with the Lt Colonel who, perhaps, seeing my enthusiasm gave me an army booklet on the truth behind J and K. Feeling enriched with the truth I decided to email it to some fifty friends across the world. Buoyed by the response I decided to do more research. I was searching for a book by D Mankekar on the Indo-Chinese War of 1962. Unable to find it with any of Mumbai’s bookshops and the publisher, I went to the Veer Savarkar library. Yeah they had it and were nice enough to give me a photocopy of the book. So was born my second email article. After that I have been on a roll. I am unable to fathom why it took me some two and half years to get down to reading about Veer Savarkar whose memorial I owe so much too. S is the short form for Savarkar.

This article is based on the book Veer Savarkar (S) by Dhananjay Keer, courtesy and copyright Popular Prakashan Private Limited. This is what a few papers had to say about the book, Savarkar and his times is a full length study of Shri Savarkar’s revolutionary, literary, political and social activities to the present day. The author has spared no pains to make the biography complete in every respect and to bring out Shri Savarkar’s personality and achievements – The Sunday Tribune, Ambala. It is a masterly work, the best biography I have read for years. Savarkar has one good fortune in his hard and strenuous life to have found a biographer like Mr Keer. That is simply wonderful – The Word, Glasgow. I have taken the chapters as they appear in the book. To reduce length of the article, I have focussed on his thoughts, hardships and contributions. Also various aspects of the Freedom Movement are covered in the essay on Sardar Patel so have not dwelt on those issues in great detail here. The chapters are

1. Childhood and Youth.
2. The Rising Leader.
3. Revolutionary Activities.
4. The Storm Breaks.
5. Epic Escape and Trials.
6. The Indian Bastille.
7. Genius Thrives in Jail.
8. Out of his Grave.
9. Social Revolution.
10. Rationalist and Author.
11. Back to Freedom.
12. Whirlwind Propaganda.
13. War and Militarization.
14. Hindu Manifesto.
15. Attacks Gandhi and Jinnah.
16. Cripps Mission.
17. Mahasabha marches on.
18. The Writing on the Wall.
19. Fight for a United India.
20. From parity to Pakistan.
21. Red Fort Trial.
22. Detention and Internment.
23. Memorial and Martyrs.
24. The Menace of Christians.
25. Old Age.
26. Warning against Aggression.
27. Nation pays Homage.
28. The Eternal Hero.

Childhood and Youth     

In politically fallen, socially degraded and financially ruined Bharat, the 1880’s and 1890’s witnessed the darkest period of the history of our country. The first peep of dawn in the form of reforms of 1909 was yet to come. Tilak, Maharishi Ranade, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda were kindling the light of social regeneration and reawakening the Indians to their spiritual heritage. While the British were busy trying to find a way to defuse the wrath of the Indian Revolution, in 1885, was founded the Indian National Congress despite the fears and opposition of Sir Syed Ahmed, who asked the Muslims to keep away from the Congress.

The moderates requested for minimum reforms, the press was muzzled, the Arms Act introduced with a denigrating and emasculating the Indians further. Two important events typified the year 1883. One was the death of the leader of renaissance, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, two – Wasudeo Balwant, the rebel, laid his bones in Aden in longing for the establishment of an Indian Republic. In such an environment surcharged with unfulfilled aspirations was born Vinayak Damodar Savarkar on 28th may, 1883, at 10 pm at Bhagur, a village near Nasik.

S was a Chitpavan Brahmin, a community that had produced Nanasahib of 1857 fame, Wasudeo Balwant and Tilak, all of whom strove to snatch the crown of Independence from the hands of the British. The Savarkars originally hailed from Konkan, a land symbolizing the great feat of reclamation performed by Parashuram. During the declining days of the Peshwa rule, the Savarkars were an important family, which had moved in and seen great events. They were Jahgirdars of a small village, Rahuri, and enjoyed the honor of palanquin for their acknowledged eminence in Sanskrit scholarship.

Inspite of his English education, S’s father, Damodarpant Savarkar loved and remembered the past. S’s mother, Radhabai was a pious, beautiful and bright woman. The couple had four children, three sons and a daughter. The first was Ganesh, the second Vinayak, the third Mainabai and the last Narayan. The couple recited several passages from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Ballads and Bakhars on Pratap, Shivaji and the Peshwas. These recitings contributed to the mental development of S. He was very fond of reading and a bright child, went to school at the age of six.

S was hardly ten when well-known newspapers from Poona accepted his poems, not knowing that the writer was a ten-year-old child. His insatiable thirst for knowledge, excellent memory and the peculiar charm in his voice and gait impressed one and all. Yet he was full of pranks too.

In June 1893, serious Hindu Muslim riots broke out in Azamgarh district in today’s Uttar Pradesh and in August the same year in Mumbai. The news of atrocities perpetuated on Hindus fired his blood and he resolved to take revenge. He led a batch of selected schoolmates in a march upon the local village mosque, shattered its windows. The Muslims responded but S with his friends routed the enemies. The boy leader fell to training and organizing his group.

S moved from the village school to Nasik. During those times the people of Maharashtra stood between famine and death, plague and soldiers, the devil and the deep sea as it were. Harassment caused and outrages on women reached a climax. In such a charged atmosphere, the Chaplekar brothers of Pune shot dead the British Plague Commissioner and another Brit officer on a day which was the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s rule. The brothers were hanged, their end proved to be a harbinger of the coming revolutionary movement in India. Their death made S resolve to strive nobly and sacrifice his nearest and dearest, his life and all, to fulfill the incomplete mission of the martyred Chaplekars. He vowed to drive out the Brits of India.

At Nashik S’s career was not extraordinary. The depth of his knowledge and the fire of his eloquence fascinated his teachers. With the great flow of his words, breadth of knowledge and boldness of his views, he towered above all in the elocution competitions.

With a view to achieve his objective of driving out the Brits, S with friends Mhaskar, Page and Babarao formed a Friend’s Union called Mitra Mela at the beginning of 1900. Chosen youths were secretly initiated into the fold. This was the famous Beehive, of revolutionaries of Western India. The Mitra Mela grew into the world famous Abhinava Bharat Society in 1904 with a network in Central and Western India and subsequent branches in the form of Ghadr Party resounded in England, France, Burma etc. Its aim was the political independence of India, to be won by an armed revolt, if need be.

By diffusing knowledge among the members, dispelling doubts and ignorance, S vitalized the youth, instilled patriotic ideas to bring out the best in them. Now the Mitra Mela dominated all public and political institutions of Nasik, changed religious ceremonies and festivals into political, national functions. Like Lord Ram, who started on his great march to annihilate Ravana from Nasik, so also S started his war of independence from here. Members of the Mitra Mela helped the city in many useful ways like carrying corpses to the cremation ground.

S’s leadership knew no caste distinction. The heart of S’s poems in those days was the liberation of Bharat. The songs of freedom by the Mitra Mela fed and fanned the flames of the passions of the people with revolutionary ideas. It was a group of these singers from Nasik that sang a ballad later on at the historic Raigad Fort in the presence of Tilak.Inspite of all this S did well in his exams. Thus, before entering Pune’s Fergusson College, young S was a first rate debater, a powerful orator, a rising writer and leader of a revolutionary organization. A few months before his matriculation examination he got married to the daughter of Bhaurao Chiplunkar. Bhaurao was rich and influential, helped S complete his University education. After S’s parents death things were tough for S’s family so it really helped.

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