Veer Savarkar: The Man Who Could Have Prevented Partition Book Review and Summary.




Author: Uday Mahurkar and Chirayu Pandit Published by: Rupa Publications

MRP: Rs.595/- This book is not a biography. If you want to read a detailed biography of Savarkar, I will highly suggest you read the extremely detailed two volumes written by Shri Vikram Sampath Ji and the early works by Shri Dhananjay Keer ji. What this book is, is exactly what is the title of the book. The book talks about the various things that led to the partition of the country, and what could have prevented it.

2022 marks the diamond jubilee of India's Independence, but it also marks 75 years to the horrifying partition, which saw 1.5 million deaths and plunder and rape of thousands of women in what was nothing less than medieval vandalism. It was the greatest catastrophe to hit humanity in the twentieth century, perhaps even greater than the Nazi Holocaust. But the pressures of vote-bank politics have worked overtime in this country to ensure that the nation forgets this tragedy and doesn’t draw a lesson from it. The book attempts to ensure that the country draws the right lessons from that gory attempt to prevent its recurrence.


SAVARKAR AND THE MERCY PETITION. IS IT REALLY THAT SIMPLE?


During his internment in Ratnagiri between 1924 and 1937, Savarkar led the most potent movement against untouchability in Indian history and called this the Hindu Sangatan. Its high point was the opening of the first ever Hindu temple in Ratnagiri in recent history that allowed the entry of untouchables-namely the Patit Pavan Mandir. From Gandhi, to Ambedkar everyone lauded the movement.

Ever since partition in the seven odd decades, quite a lot has been written about Savarkar. A set of writers from the far-Left, pan-Islamist mindset condemned Savarkar either in their books or columns for his `divisive thinking’ and `harsh treatment of Muslims’. These same people have gone great lengths to defame Savarkar and make him unacceptable to the new generation by focusing on his clemency petitions to the British government seeking release from rigorous imprisonment form the Cellular Jain in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Ratnagiri Jail, where he passed the last three years of his rigorous imprisonment before being set free by the British in 1924 and allowed to do non-political work within the precincts of Ratnagiri district. Most of his petitions for clemency were for all the prisoners who were with him and not just for him. He talked about these petitions in the Marathi Book `Andamanchya Andheritun’{from the darkness of Andaman) He says he tried to impress his fellow prisoners by giving the example of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the nationalist hero who tried the same ruseto come out of Aurangazeb’s captivity in Agra in 1666 among other examples. The left and the pan Islamist writers have not just deliberately ignored Savarkar’s writings about the justification behind his clemency petitions but have gone further and found a cunning way of contrasting Savarkar’s patriotism and mercy petitions to Bhagat Singh’s sacrifice in embracing the gallows with a smiling face. They appropriated Bhagat Singh and projected him as a face of Left ideology, thus contrasting the patriotism of Hindutva revolutionary forces with that of communists. This appropriation of Bhagat Singh requires a closer look after the plethora of evidence that is available. Questions were raised about his autobiographical essay titled `Why Am I An Atheist’, published by a Left Historian. All his collective works which he wrote in jail is available in the national archives EXCEPT for the manuscript of this essay. Leftists declare him an atheist because they claim the found a book on Lenin in his jail cell. What they fail to mention is they found 4 other books, which include one on Maharana Pratap, one on Guru Gobind Sing and one on Punjab’s romantic legend, Heer-Ranjha. The last line in his letter from jail to his younger brother says, “Jo rab nu Manzoor (Whatever God ordains)”. No further questions, your honor.


HSRA or the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, a nomenclature that was selected only because it symbolized the fight against British imperialism and was apparently inspired by Lenin’s revolution against the Russian imperialism, which was then not very old. Bhagat Singh in his article, `Vishwa Prem’ wrote , `We describe Savarkar as an arch anarchist and vitriolic revolutionary but ultimately he was a brave believer in world brotherhood’. He even quoted Savarkar several times in his Jail Diaries from Savarkar’s Hindu Pad Padashahi. These quotes no where indicate he had communist leanings. One quote says, ‘It is easy to break the shackles of political bondage, but very difficult to break the shackles of cultural bondage’. Another one says, ‘It is good to die rather than accept conversion(to other religious faiths) but it is even better to fight and defeat the violent forces ranged against Dharma and die in doing so.


THE ALIGARH MOVEMENT


The book first talks about the forces that led to the partition. Like the Two-Nation theorists. It all began at Aligarh. You must have read about the `The Aligarh Movement’. The moorings of the Aligarh Movement trace back to `Sir’ Syed Ahmed Khan(1817-98), recognized as a Mohammedan social reformist, educationist and founder of the Indian Patriotic Association and the Muhammad Anglo-Oriental College (MAO College in 1875), later known as the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).


Sir Syed was of two mouths. In front of the Muslim audience, he warns against the parliamentary system of governance. And that in such system it Muslim Interests will not be safeguarded under a Hindu leader and as Muslims ruled over Hindu’s for centuries, if Hindu’s rule over Muslims now, it will be. He said that the British Christians were their Abrahamic cousins and it is better to be ruled by them than Kaffir Hindus. On the other hand he was a member of the INC and was all for Hindu-Muslim unity against the British. The truth of the matter is that Syed Ahmed spoke in two voices. The moderate one meant for the consumption of Moderate Hindus, who too had donated huge amounts of money for the Aligarh College, and the hardline, separatist voice to inspire his Muslim brethren in Aligarh and beyond.


The city of Aligarh has been well known for its lock industry. But the deadlock created by the Aligarh Movement hindered the progress of the Indian Nation, long after Syed’s death in 1898. His successors felt the need for the a political party to safeguard Muslim Interests and rights and to inculcate loyalty to the British in the hearts of Muslims. The All India Muslim League, better known as the Muslim League was thus born in December 1906. The Muslim League president placed a 12 point demand before the British government, whose tone was similar to that of Aga Khan. Which were then granted in 1909 in the Morley-Minto Reforms. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, better known as Gandhi’s political mentor , himself expressed to William Wedderburn(one of the Congress Founders), the disquiet he felt over `the not only unjust but monstrously unjust’ representation granted to the Moslems. In his statement, Gokhale made three strong, historical points about the reforms in spite of his moderate thoughts.

1. The Muslims of this land have descended from the Hindu stock. Their attitude has undergone a change due to forced conversion. Hindus are far ahead of Muslims in matters of numerical strength, wealth, education and social conscience. The present national awakening has been achieved mainly by Hindus. They are moderate and submissive and also weakened by caste differences.

2. Muslims claim they ruled over India for 500 years. It must however be remembered that Hindus ruled for several thousand years prior to it and even before the arrival of the British. Hindus had established their rule by defeating the Muslims

3. It is strange that those who do not owe their allegiance to India are getting better representation than those with patriotic fervor


Contrary to Gokhale’s strong stand against the Morley-Minto Reforms, his disciple Gandhi supported the reforms by giving his own logic, thus overlooking the divisive agenda of a section of Muslims, who were pan Islamists. To directly quote him…” I am emphatically of the view that the Hindus should give to the Muslims whatever they ask for, and willingly accept whatever sacrifice this may involve. Unity will be brought about only through such mutual generosity”.




GANDHI: REALLY A MAHATMA?


In its eagerness to present a united front against the British policy of dividing Hindus and Muslims by enticing the latter, the Congress signed the Lucknow Pact in 1916. This is often seen as the foundation of Muslim appeasement in the country. The Lucknow Pact had opened the doors for a Muslim-appeasement policy, which was to ultimately lead to India’s partition and continues to bedevil the nation till this day and impede its progress.


During the Khilafat Movement, Gandhi declared Hindu (or the Congress) support to the pan-Islamic movement of the Muslims and used it to launch the non-cooperation movement against the draconian Rowlatt Act 1919 and the Jallianwala Bagh killing of innocent Hindus and Sikhs by General Dyer. This impractical alliance was fraught with disastrous consequences as Muslims cared little for the Congress agenda and were concerned with only the success of the Khilafat agitation. Hindus, at large, were not attracted by the Congress–Muslim alliance; in fact, they felt some kind of disconnect with it. Gandhi too rejected the suggestion point blank saying there couldn’t be any preconditions when it came to a genuine friendship between two friends. Not just that, Gandhi also looked the other way, despite his steadfastness to the ideal of non-violence, when the Maulanas involved in the movement recited violent verses from the Koran centered around the concept of jehad and killing of Kafirs while taking potshots at the British government on the Khilafat issue.


Dr K.B. Hedgewar, originally a Congress worker of Nagpur who went to jail during the Khilafat movement and before that a revolutionary of the Anushilan Samiti, starting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925 as a Hindu bulwark against the rising Muslim appeasement and Islamic fanaticism. Hedgewar’s transformation from a simple Congress worker to a defender of Hindu faith and culture is interesting. Once Hedgewar and a Muslim leader named Samiulla Khan were travelling for a conference during the Khilafat days. Hedgewar casually asked Khan that the ‘Gandhian cap is accepted by everyone nowadays. Why don’t you wear that instead of [the] Turkish skull cap?’ Samiulla answered: ‘I am a Muslim first. This cap is my religious symbol. So, there is no question of doffing it. Hedgewar understood that when Hindus removed their turbans for the Gandhian cap, Muslims kept their skull caps intact. Therefore, their closeness to the Congress was for an Islamic cause and not for a common cause.


Gandhi’s pro-Muslim bias—is evident from his observation that ‘the Mussalman, as a rule, is a bully, and the Hindu, as a rule, is a coward’, and his reference to Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, and Guru Gobind Singh, who successfully fought against Muslim rule, as ‘misguided patriots. After Bhagat Singh’s act of killing British officer John Saunders, who was responsible for Lala Lajpat Rai’s death, Gandhi warned: ”The Bhagat Singh worship has done and is doing incalculable harm to the country… The deed itself is being worshipped as if it was worthy of emulation. The result is goondaism and degradation wherever this mad worship is being performed. The Congress is a power in the land, but I warn Congressmen that it will soon lose all its charm if they betray their trust and encourage the Bhagat Singh cult whether in thought, word or deed”.

After Udham Singh shot dead Michael O’Dwyer in March 1940 and took heroic revenge of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Gandhi called it an ‘insane act.

Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, a member of the Swarajya party within the Congress, struck the Bengal Pact in 1923 with the Muslims in Bengal on the eve of an important election. The pact allowed Muslims: 1. The authority to indulge in cow slaughter without opposition from Hindus.

2. Sixty percent reservation in jobs to Muslims in Bengal and 80 percent reservation in jobs in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

3. Ban the Hindu community taking out religious processions from near the mosques.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Congress president during the most crucial period before Partition, and widely regarded as a towering symbol of Hindu–Muslim unity, shocked everyone with his views on the Bengal Pact, which were published in his autobiography India Wins Freedom. He called the rejection of the Bengal Pact the first seed of Partition and eulogized Chittaranjan Das for creating a great nationalist atmosphere amongst the Bengal Hindus by signing the Bengal Pact.


THE LIBERAL JINNAH


Sheshrao B. More, a scholar of Muslim politics, insists that Jinnah, like most Muslim leaders of his time, had a separatist streak from the beginning, but differed from others because of his sophistication. He is known to have been protecting Muslim interests from within the Congress, even while maintaining a liberal face on the surface.


His stand as a Muslim League leader in 1924 gives a clear indication of his penchant to snatch special concessions for Muslims. The meeting of the Muslim League on 24 May 1924 in Lahore, presided over by Jinnah as president, put conditions for any Constitution of India acceptable to Muslims. In this, the first condition was aimed at keeping the Centre weak ‘with full autonomy to the provinces with central government functions being confined to matter of general and common concern’. This condition was also in contradiction of the Government of India Act of 1935 aimed at a strong Centre, which could have prevented Partition had it not been abandoned in the wake of World War II. One of the other conditions was that the mode of representation in elected bodies shall guarantee adequate and effective protection to minorities in every province and would be through separate electorates but with the provision that no majority shall be reduced to a minority and even to equality.


The moment for Jinnah to turn openly communal arrived after the Simon Commission came to India in 1928 and was boycotted by all except the Muslim League led by Mian Muhammad Shafi and the Justice Party of Madras. The Congress boycotted the commission for having no Indian member on it and for its one-sided nature. Later, the Congress called an all-party conference to demonstrate to the British rulers that Indians were capable of setting the national agenda on their own without a Simon Commission. Both the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League, led by Jinnah, participated in the conference. However, the views of the Muslim League differed on representation of various communities in state legislatures and on separating Sindh from the then Bombay province. Jinnah also wanted other concessions from the Congress, including separate electorates for Muslims, more in proportion to their numbers. In the meantime, Motilal Nehru’s Nehru Report, seeking dominion status for India and recommending joint electorates based on fair play and rejecting the special demands of the Muslims, started creating waves to the detriment of the Muslim League and Jinnah. Jinnah called an all-party conference at Calcutta to discuss this report. Opposing Jinnah’s pro-Muslim demands at this conference, well[1]known educationist and politician Dr Mukund Ramrao (M.R.) Jayakar, who had been associated with both the Hindu Mahasabha and the Congress and had also been the director, along with Jinnah, on the board of The Bombay Chronicle, said: ‘The word communalism has acquired a most extraordinary significance these days. If I venture to speak for Hindu rights, I am a communalist, but if a Muslim with nationalist tendencies fights for Muslim rights, he still remains a nationalist. There is no use hiding the fact that all the amendments put forward by Mr Jinnah had their origin in communal spirit’.


After the denial of his demands at the all-party meeting, Jinnah convened an All Parties Muslim Conference at Delhi in 1929 and took a giant step towards realizing his ambition. He openly donned Muslim colors by presenting a charter of 14 demands on behalf of the Muslim community. (Fourteen Points of Jinnah - Wikipedia). On a closer look, one can trace the foundations of Pakistan to these demands, the major features of which include a weak Centre, provincial autonomy, promoting Muslim religious and political interests at the cost of Hindu rights, separation of Sindh from Bombay province, and on the other hand, no territorial redistribution affecting the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal and the North-West Frontier Province. Now it was clear that Jinnah had decided the political course of his life promoting pro-Muslim agenda at Hindu cost and used it to become the undisputed leader of the Muslims.


Choudhary Rahmat Ali, a Muslim student of Gujjar origin from India’s Hoshiarpur district studying in Cambridge University, coined the word ‘Pakistan’ for this proposed nation in a pamphlet titled Now or Never: Are We to Live or Perish. In this pamphlet, he implored the Muslims to break away from India to form a separate Islamic State, the time for which he thought was most opportune at that moment. The time was also opportune for Jinnah’s rise as the undisputed leader of the Muslims in India. It coincided with Gandhi becoming the supreme leader of the Hindus after he refused to attend the first Round Table Conference in London in 1930 following Viceroy Lord Irwin’s refusal to give him any assurance on his demand for a new Constitution and dominion status for India. Leaders of other parties attended the conference. Muslim leaders were unaffected by Gandhi’s absence, as they were busy playing their own game of seeking more and more concessions in connivance with the British. However, as Gandhi launched the Salt Satyagraha in India that year, the Hindu leaders attending the conference in London such as Munje and Tej Bahadur Sapru lost face as they were seen as traitors by the Hindu populace, which had started seeing Gandhi and the Congress as patriots. This was in spite of the fact that Munje demanded complete independence from British rule at the conference and also opposed special demands of the Muslims, thus protecting Hindu rights. The British prime minster Ramsay MacDonald dropped a hint of what was to come when he harped on the need for special powers to be vested in the Viceroy to protect the interest of the minorities, which, he said, was the British government’s responsibility. Significantly, in a few years of Jinnah’s 14 demands came the British Communal Award after the second Round Table conference of 1931, which in many ways addressed many of Jinnah’s demands. Interestingly, the second Round Table Conference was attended by Gandhi following a compromise with the British in the form of the Gandhi–Irwin Pact, but he could make no impact on the Muslim League and Muslim demands. He also failed to prevent the Muslim League and other Muslim representatives from allowing him to be the sole representative of all Indians at the conference. Apart from giving representation to Muslims far in proportion to their numbers in the Communal Award (which came soon after the conference), the British cunningly tried to divide the entire society coming under the Hindu pantheon by planning separate representation in legislatures for Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Depressed Classes (now known as Dalits). But here one saw a combative Gandhi, who vehemently opposed the provision to divide the Hindu society by going on fast unto death while being imprisoned in Yerwada jail. He opened negotiations with Depressed Classes led by Ambedkar and M.P. Raja and other leaders and conceded seats to them from the Upper Caste quota in what was later known as the Poona Pact. Munje played a key role in drafting the pact as he was close to Ambedkar. The pact prevented the British from interfering in the internal affairs of the Hindu community.


From this point onwards, Jinnah was hell-bent on making the Muslim League the sole representative of Muslims and himself the supreme Muslim leader. His problem was Muslim-majority areas such as Bengal, Punjab and Sindh, where he couldn’t so much play on Muslim fears and where other Muslim leaders, such as Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan of the Unionist Party in Punjab and Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq of the Krishak Praja Party in Bengal, didn’t want to pursue a totally anti-Hindu line and were keen to take the local Hindus along. Jinnah was convinced that one of the best ways to become the leaders of all Muslims and thwart the Congress was to raise the ‘Islam in danger’ bogey, which he achieved following his election as the president of the Muslim League at Lucknow in October 1937. Depicting the Congress as a Hindu party aiming to put down Muslims, he opposed ‘Vande Mataram’ as being against Muslim tenets, being an idol-worshipping poem, and denounced Hindi as state language that was thwarting Urdu, the Wardha scheme of education promoting Hindi and also the tricolour. Jinnah played on the Congress’s act of putting stiff conditions before the Muslim League for sharing power with Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. He told the Muslim world that even in a limited type of self-rule in the form of provincial autonomy, the Congress was preventing the Muslim League from sharing power with it and thus the Congress’s was a Hindu rule. As a next step, he set up two committees to probe the manufactured allegations of atrocities of the ‘Hindu Congress’ against Muslims. One of them was set up under the Nawab of Pirpur, Muhammad Mehdi. The Pirpur Committee report depicted the Congress rule as anti-Muslim and opposed the tricolour, ‘Vande Mataram’, and went a step further by opposing the Congress’s and Hindu’s objection to cow slaughter. The demand for allowing cow slaughter by the Muslim League constituted the last straw on the camel’s back when it came to the Hindu–Muslim unity scheme of the Congress. A committee was also set up by the Bihar Provincial Muslim League under the leadership of Mohammed Sharif to look into the condition of Muslims under the Congress rule in Bihar. Like the Pirpur Committee report, it turned out to be a bundle of lies to project the Congress as anti-Muslim and the Muslim community reeling under the onslaught of Congress’s Hindu tyranny.


THE CONGRESS: CHASING A MIRAGE


In terms of strategy to meet his objective of emerging as the supreme leader of Indian Muslims, Jinnah was far ahead of the Congress. He tried various ways to force the established Muslim leadership in the country to join him. On the other hand, the Congress was virtually strategy-less; its objective of gaining Independence solely with Hindu–Muslim unity was like chasing a mirage. With all this and more, the partition was eminent. Had things being done differently, done the Savarkar way , we perhaps would be one Nation in place of three.


When you read the predictions Savarkar made, you realize just how right he was. The book shows his visionary side, and I couldn’t help but admire his grasp of human psychology and the inherent differences in the thought processes of different communities. The partition has been a psychological game, a manipulation of masses at its very best, which continues even today. What’s crucial to recognize here is that the ones who are hardworking rarely call themselves a victim. It’s almost always the ones with privileges that think they are entitled to special treatment.

Savarkar's views and opinions regarding National security and integration were unmatched in his time. He had foreseen the threat of division of our beloved country and inspired a large number of Hindu youth to participate in the British led army for world war, so that at the time of partition there would be enough number of soldiers to Guard and protect our nation, else Pakistan would have got more than Kashmir. It alarmed Muslim league to the great extent. Had he been present in the 1942 congress resolution giving provinces the right to self determination (cessation) would never have got presented, thus seeds of division could have never fruictified. The author also presents similarity and differences between Savarkar's views and his contemporary leaders. His certain shortcomings have also been duly recorded. The author also presents how his thoughts and principles have been embedded in the constitution as well the current Indian regime's way of dealing with external threats.

A Must-read the book. Definitely recommended.


You can purchase the book here: https://amzn.to/3LIT3z0 (Affiliate Link) If you purchase from this link, I will get a small kickback with no additional cost to you.


Received the book from Indica Book Club for the 1000 Reviews Program. Grateful to Indica Book Club for this initiative.

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