Mercy Petitions of Hindutva Guru Veer/Brave (!) Savarkar

Narendra Modi paid tribute to right wing idealist Veer Savarkar on his 133th birth anniversary

Mercy Petitions of Hindutva Guru Veer/Brave (!) Savarkar

MYTH

Savarkarites
argue,

“There
are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his
release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well
aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he
kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him
a bit”.[i]

According
to a prominent RSS functionary,

“as
an ardent follower of Shivaji, Savarkar wanted to die in action. Finding this
the only way, he wrote six letters to the British pleading for his release”.[ii]

The RSS organ, Organizer while
defending Savarkar’s mercy petitions wrote,

“He
was a master strategist. He felt he was wasting the prime of his life in the
jail being tortured by the British when the country was raging ahead to fight colonialism…
He was entirely justified in writing those letters to get out of the wretched
jail so that he could come back to active politics and freedom struggle”.[iii]

FACTS

There cannot be a lie worse than the claim
that Savarkar’s mercy petitions were in league with the tricks which Shivaji
used to hoodwink the Mughal rulers successfully. It is unfortunate that the
Hindutva camp, which swears by Shivaji’s name, is drawing a parallel between
the two. If we go through the original text of Savarkar’s 1913 and 1920 mercy
petitions, we will realize the brazen dishonesty of the Hindutva camp in
advancing such an argument. It would be sheer stupidity and open denigration of
Shivaji if any one claims that the following mercy was like Shivaji’s letters
to Mughals.

The original text of the mercy petition
which V D Savarkar (Convict No. 32778) presented personally to the Home Member
of the Governor General’s Council, Sir Reginald Craddock, when he came to visit
the Andamans (October-November, 1913) on November 14, 1913, reproduced in the
following makes a shocking reading:

“I beg to
submit the following points for your kind consideration:

(1) When I came
here in 1911 June, I was along with the rest

of the convicts of
my party taken to the office of the Chief

Commissioner.
There I was classed as ‘D’ meaning dangerous prisoner; the rest of the convicts
were not classed as “D”. Then

I had to pass full
6 months in solitary confinement. The other

convicts
had not. During that time I was put on the coir pounding though my hands were
bleeding. Then I was put on the oil-mill — the hardest labour in the jail.
Although my conduct during all the time was exceptionally good still at the end
of these six months I was not sent out of the jail; though the other convicts
who came with me were. From that time to this day I have tried to keep my
behaviour as good as possible.

(2)
When I petitioned for promotion I was told I was a special class prisoner and
so could not be promoted. When any of us asked for better food or any special
treatment we were told “You are only ordinary convicts and must eat what the
rest do”. Thus Sir, Your Honour would see that only for special disadvantages
we are classed as special prisoners.

(3) When the majority of the casemen were sent outside I
requested for my release. But, although I had been cased (caned?) hardly twice
or thrice and some of those who were released, for a dozen and more times,
still I was not released with them because I was their casemen [fellow
convicts]. But when after all, the order for my release was given and when just
then some of the political prisoners outside were brought into the troubles I
was locked in with them because I was their casemen.

(4)
If I was in Indian jails I would have by this time earned much remission, could
have sent more letters home, got visits. If I was a transportee (sic)
pure and simple I would have by this time been released, from this jail and
would have been looking forward for ticket-leave etc. But as it is, I have
neither the advantages of the Indian jail nor of this convict colony
regulation; though had to undergo the disadvantages of both.

(5)
Therefore will your honour be pleased to put an end to this anomalous situation
in which I have been placed, by either sending me to Indian jails or by
treating me as a transportee just like any other prisoner. I am not asking for
any preferential treatment, though I believe as a political prisoner even that
could have been expected in any civilized administration in the Independent
nations of the world; but only for the concessions and favour that are shown
even to the most depraved of convicts and habitual criminals? This present plan
of shutting me up in this jail permanently makes me quite hopeless of any
possibility of sustaining life and hope. For those who are term convicts the
thing is different, but Sir, I have 50 years staring me in the face!

How
can I pull up moral energy enough to pass them in close confinement when even
those concessions which the vilest of convicts can claim to smoothen their life
are denied to me? Either please to send me to Indian jail for there I would
earn (a) remission; (b) would have a visit from my people come every four
months for those who had unfortunately been in jail know what a blessing it is
to have a sight of one’s nearest and dearest every now and then! (c) and above
all a moral – though not a legal – right of being entitled to release in 14
years; (d) also more letters and other little advantages. Or if I cannot be
sent to India I should be released and sent outside with a hope, like any other
convicts, to visits after 5 years, getting my ticket leave and calling over my
family here. If this is granted then only one grievance remains and that is
that I should be held responsible only for my own faults and not of others.

It
is a pity that I have to ask for this – it is such a fundamental right of every
human being! For as there are on the one hand, some 20 political prisoners –
young, active and restless, and on the other the regulations of a convict
colony, by the very nature of them reducing the liberties of thought and
expression to lowest minimum possible; it is but inevitable that every now and
then some one of them will be found to have contravened a regulation or two and
if all be held responsible for that, as now it is actually done – very little
chance of being left outside remains for me.

In the end may I
remind your honour to be so good as to go through the petition for clemency,
that I had sent in 1911, and to sanction it for being forwarded to the Indian
Government? The latest development of the Indian politics and the conciliating
policy of the government have thrown open the constitutional line once more.
Now no man having the good of India and Humanity at heart will blindly step on
the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in
1906-1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. Therefore if the
government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot
but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the
English government which is the foremost condition of that progress. As long as
we are in jails there cannot be real happiness and joy in hundreds and
thousands of homes of His Majesty’s loyal subjects in India, for blood is
thicker than water; but if we be released the people will instinctively raise a
shout of joy and gratitude to the government, who knows how to forgive and
correct, more than how to chastise and avenge. Moreover my conversion to the
constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and
abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide. I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like, for as my
conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me
in jail nothing can be got in comparison to what would be otherwise. The Mighty
alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son
return but to the parental doors of the Government? Hoping your Honour will
kindly take into notion these points.”
[iv] [Emphasis added]

It
is to be noted that Savarkar’s mercy petition presented to Craddock on November
14, 1913 personally at the cellular Jail was not the only one. He submitted in
all five mercy petitions in 1911, 1913, 1914, 1918 and 1920. We find mention of
his 1911, 1914 and 1918 mercy petitions. Sadly, the texts of these are not
available in the archives.

His
mercy petition of 1920 was also a comprehensive one which offered total
surrender. It is being produced here:

“CELLULAR
JAIL, PORT BLAIR,

The
30th March 1920.

To,

The
Chief Commissioner of Andamans

In
view of the recent statement of the Hon’ble Member for the Home Department to
the Government of India, to the effect that “the Government was willing to
consider the papers of any individual, and give them their best consideration
if they were brought before them”; and that “as soon as it appeared to the
Government that an individual could be released without danger to the State,
the Government would extend the Royal clemency to that person,” the undersigned
most humbly begs that he should be given a last chance to submit his case,
before it is too late. You, Sir, at any rate, would not grudge me this last
favour of forwarding this petition to His Excellency the Viceroy of India,
especially and if only to give me the satisfaction of being heard, whatever the
Government decisions may be.

I.
The Royal proclamation most magnanimously states that Royal clemency should be
extended to all those who were found guilty of breaking the law “Through their
eagerness for Political progress.” The cases of me and my brother are
pre-eminently of this type. Neither I nor any of my family members had anything
to complain against the Government for any personal wrong due to us nor for any
personal favour denied. I had a brilliant career open to me and nothing to gain
and everything to lose individually by treading such dangerous paths. Suffice
it to say, that no less a personage than one of the Hon’ble Members for the
Home Department had said, in 1913, to me personally, “…Such education so much
reading…you could have held the highest posts under our Government.” If in
spite of this testimony any doubts as to my motive does lurk in any one, then
to him I beg to point out, that there had been no prosecution against any
member of my family till this year 1909; while almost all of my activity which
constituted the basis for the case, have been in the years preceding that. The
prosecution, the Judges and the Rowlatt Report have all admitted that since the
year 1899 to the year 1909 had been written the life of Mazzini and other
books, as well organised the various societies and even the parcel of arms had
been sent before the arrest of any of my brothers or before I had any personal
grievance to complain of (vide Rowlatt Report, pages 6 etc.). But does anyone
else take the same view of our cases? Well, the monster petition that the
Indian public had sent to His Majesty and that had been signed by no less than
5,000 signatures, had made a special mention of me in it. I had been denied a
jury in the trial: now the jury of a whole nation has opined that only the
eagerness for political progress had been the motive of all my actions and that
led me to the regrettable breaking of the laws.

II.
Nor can this second case of abetting murder throw me beyond the reach of the
Royal clemency. For (a) the Proclamation does not make any distinction of the
nature of the offence or of a section or of the Court of Justice, beyond the
motive of the offence. It concerns entirely with the Motive and requires that
it should be political and not personal.

(b)
Secondly, the Government too has already interpreted it in the same spirit and
has released Barin and Hesu and others. These men had confessed that one of the
objects of their conspiracy was “the murders of prominent Government

officials” and on
their own confessions, had been guilty of

sending the boys
to murder magistrates, etc. This magistrate had among others prosecuted Barin’s
brother Arabinda in the

first “Bande
Mataram” newspaper case. And yet Barin was

not looked upon,
and rightly so, as a nonpolitical murderer. In my respect the objection is
immensely weaker. For it was justly admitted by the prosecution that I was in
England, had no knowledge of the particular plot or idea of murdering Mr.
Jackson and had sent the parcels of arms before the arrest of my brother and so
could not have the slightest personal grudge against any particular individual
officer. But Hem had actually prepared the very bomb that killed the Kennedys
and with a full knowledge of its destination. (Rowlatt Report, page 33). Yet
Hem had not been thrown out of the scope of the clemency on that ground. If
Barin and others were not separately charged for specific abetting, it was only
because they had already been sentenced to capital punishment in the Conspiracy
case; and I was specifically charged because I was not, and again for the
international facilities to have me extradited in case France got me back.
Therefore I humbly submit that the Government be pleased to extend the clemency
to me as they had done it to Barin

and Hem whose
complicity in abetting the murders of officers, etc., was confessed and much
deeper. For surely a section does not matter more than the crime it
contemplates. In the case of my brother this question does not arise as his case
has nothing to do with any murders, etc.

III.
Thus interpreting the proclamation as the Government had already done in the
cases of Barin, Hem, etc. I and my brother are fully entitled to the Royal
clemency “in the fullest measure.” But is it compatible with public safety? I
submit it is entirely so. For (a) I most emphatically declare that we are not
amongst “the microlestes of anarchism” referred to by the Home Secretary. So
far from believing in the militant school of the type that I do not contribute
even to the peaceful and

philosophical
anarchism of a Kropotkin or a Tolstoy. And as to my revolutionary tendencies in
the past: – it is not only now for the object of sharing the clemency but years
before this have I informed of and written to the Government in my petitions
(1918, 1914) about my firm intention to abide by the constitution and stand by
it as soon as a beginning was made to frame it by Mr. Montagu. Since that the
Reforms and then the Proclamation have only confirmed me in my views and recently
I have publicly avowed my faith in and readiness to stand by the side of
orderly and constitutional development. The danger that is threatening our
country from the north at the hands of the fanatic hordes of Asia who had been
the curse of India in the past when they came as foes, and who are more likely
to be so in the future now that they want to come as friends, makes me
convinced that every intelligent lover of India would heartily and loyally
co-operate with the British people in the interests of India herself.

That is why I
offered myself as a volunteer in 1914 to Government when the war broke out and
a German-Turko-Afghan invasion of India became imminent. Whether you believe it
or not, I am sincere in expressing my earnest intention of treading the
constitutional path and trying my humble best to render the hands of the
British dominion a bond of love and respect and of mutual help. Such an Empire,
as is foreshadowed in the Proclamation, wins my hearty adherence. For verily I
hate no race or creed or people simply because they are not Indians!

(b) But if the
Government wants a further security from me then I and my brother are perfectly
willing to give a pledge of

not participating in politics for a definite and
reasonable period that the Government would indicate. For even without such a
pledge my failing health and the sweet blessings of home that have been denied
to me by myself make me so desirous of leading a quiet and retired life for
years to come that nothing would induce me to dabble in active politics now.

(c) This or any pledge, e.g., of remaining in a
particular province or reporting our movements to the police for a definite
period after our release – any such reasonable conditions meant genuinely to
ensure the safety of the State would be gladly accepted by me and my brother.
Ultimately, I submit, that the overwhelming majority of the very people who
constitute the State which is to be kept safe from us have from Mr.
Surendranath, the venerable and veteran moderate leader, to the man in the
street, the press and the platform, the Hindus and the Muhammadans [sic]
from the Punjab to Madras – been clearly persistently asking for our immediate
and complete release, declaring it was compatible with their safety. Nay more,
declaring it was a factor in removing the very `sense of bitterness’ which the
Proclamation aims to allay.

IV. Therefore the
very object of the Proclamation would not be fulfilled and the sense of
bitterness removed, I warn the

public
mind, until we two and those who yet remain have been made to share the
magnanimous clemency.

V. Moreover, all
the objects of a sentence have been satisfied

in our case. For (a) we have put in 10 to 11 years in jail, while Mr. Sanyal, who too was a lifer, was released in 4 years and the riot case lifers within a year; (b) we have done hard work, mills, oil mills and everything else that was given to us in India and here; (c) our prison behaviour is in no way more objectionable than of those already released; they had, even in Port Blair, been suspected of a serious plot and locked up in jail again. We two, on the contrary, have to this day been under extra rigorous discipline and restrain and yet during the last six years or so there is not a single case even on ordinary disciplinary grounds against us.

VI. In the end, I
beg to express my gratefulness for the release of hundreds of political
prisoners including those who have been released from the Andamans, and for
thus partially granting my petitions of 1914 and 1918. It is not therefore too
much to hope that His Excellency would release the remaining prisoners too, as
they are placed on the same footing, including me and my brother. Especially
so, as the political situation in Maharashtra has singularly been free from any
outrageous disturbances for so many years in the past. Here, however, I beg to
submit that our release should not be made conditional on the behaviour of
those released or of anybody else; for it would be preposterous to deny us the
clemency and punish us for the fault of someone else.

VII. On all these
grounds, I believe that the Government, hearing my readiness to enter into any
sensible pledge and the fact that the Reforms, present and promised, joined to
common danger from the north of Turko-Afghan fanatics have made me a sincere
advocate of loyal co-operation in the interests of both our nations, would
release me and win my personal gratitude. The brilliant prospects of my early
life all but too soon blighted, have constituted so painful a source of regret
to me that a release would be a new birth and would touch my heart, sensitive
and submissive, to kindness so deeply as to render me personally attached and
politically useful in future. For often magnanimity wins even where might
fails.

Hoping that the Chief Commissioner, remembering the
personal regard I ever had shown to him throughout his term and how often I had
to face keen disappointment throughout that time, will not grudge me this last
favour of allowing this most harmless vent to my despair and will be pleased to
forward this petition – may I hope with his own recommendations? to His
Excellency the Viceroy of India.

I beg to remain,
SIR,
Your most obedient servant,
(Sd.) V.D. Savarkar, Convict no. 32778.” [v]

[Emphasis added]

NOTHING WRONG IN WRITING PETITIONS

It is true that there was nothing wrong on
part of the Cellular Jail detainees in writing petitions to the British
officials. It was, in fact, an important legal right available to the
prisoners. There were other revolutionaries too, who wrote petitions to the
British Government.  When Craddock came
to visit the Cellular jail, Savarkar was not the only one who presented a
petition to him. Apart from Savarkar, Hrishi Kesh Kanjilal, Barindra Kumar
Ghose and Nand Gopal too wrote petitions. However, these were only Savarkar and
Barindra Ghose (Aurobindo Ghose’s brother) who pleaded to renounce their
revolutionary past in order to secure personal freedom.

Unlike Savarkar and Barin, the other two
revolutionaries, Hrishi Kesh Kanjilal and Gopal, instead of pleading for
personal favours, demanded a humane treatment for the whole lot of political
prisoners. They showed no remorse for their past. Kanjilal, while referring to
the general persecution of political prisoners in the Cellular Jail, wrote that
though he himself suffered immensely,

“many
of my casemen suffered much more inside the jail. One of my casemen  had to commit suicide. So harsh was the
treatment and so great were the troubles we had to undergo, that one of my casemen
turned mad.”[vi]

 If
there was anything personal in his petition, it was the following plea,

“If
the Government is not pleased to send me to Indian jails, Government ought to
grant me those privileges, which convicts in Indian jails always get…”[vii]

Nand Gopal, Editor of the newspaper Swaraj
of Allahabad, was sentenced to transportation to life for seditious writing. He
too, did not make any personal plea but like Kanjilal raised the issue of
terrible persecution of the political prisoners in the Cellular Jail. He wrote:

“I request
the officers of the most powerful Government of the world, and to the Indian
Government specially, not to render our condition wretched and miserable in
order to kill the germs of sedition within us. If the religious martyrdom
practised by the enemies of Christianity against Christianity has not destroyed
Christianity from the face of the Globes, surely, political martyrdom shall not
extirpate the Indian nationalism from the Holy soil of Bharatvarsha.”[viii]

SVARKAR WILLINGLY ACCEPTED CONDITIONS OF HIS RELEASE

Savarkar’s
biography Veer Savarkar by Dhananjay Keer can be described as the
official biography as Keer made it clear in the preface of the book itself that
he was relying for writing this biography on ‘a plethora of material which was
kindly made available to me by Savarkar himself and his kind interviews…’ [ix]

This biography, while presenting actual
details of Savarkar’s release, also throws light on unsavoury deals struck
between the British and Savarkar. While referring to Savarkar’s release in 1924
biography reads:

“Now helpful
winds began to blow in his direction. Sir Rufus Isaacs, now Lord Reading, who
as Solicitor General had led for the Crown in Savarkar’s extradition trial in
England, was Governor General in India. He must have felt sympathy for
Savarkar. His Excellency Sir George Lloyd, the Governor of Bombay, came with
his Councillors to interview Savarkar. Lt. Col. J. H. Murray, I. M. S., who was
the Jail Superintendent in the Cellular Jail, was now at Yeravda as the Jail
Superintendent. The conditions of release were prepared in the light of the discussions
held between Savarkar and H. E. the Governor who was accompanied by Mr. A.
Montgomerie, the then home member. After substituting a few words, Savarkar
accepted the conditions; signed the terms on December 27, 1923…Savarkar was
released conditionally on January 6, 1924, from Yeravda Jail. The terms read:

That
Savarkar shall reside in Ratnagiri district and shall not go beyond the limits
of that district without the permission of Government or in the case of
emergency of the District magistrate; that he will not engage publicly or
privately in any manner of political activities without the consent of
Government for a period of five years. Such restrictions being renewable at the
discretion of government at the expiry of the same term.”[x]

 This was not the last written undertaking that
Savarkar gave to the British rulers. His biography by Keer gives details of
another one submitted by him in 1934:

“In May 1934,
Savarkar was arrested again and detained for two weeks in connection with shots
fired at a military officer Sweetland in Bombay by Wamanrao Chavan, who was a
Sanghatanist [member of the Hindu Mahasabha] firebrand from Ratnagiri. Savarkar
wrote from Ratnagiri prison on May 8, 1934, that he had nothing to do with the
boys Waman Chavan and Gajannan Damle; the latter had been arrested because
Chavan had kept his trunk at his place…He further said that he was prepared to
cease taking part in any agitation, social or political without the previous
sanction of the Government.”[xi]

SAVARKAR’S CHANGE OF HEART

R.
C. Majumdar is regarded as a true Bhartiya (read Indian) historian by
the Hindutva brigade. He must have been shocked to find mercy petitions of
Savarkar and Barindra Kumar Ghose while sifting through heaps of official
papers relating to the Cellular Jail in the course of writing his landmark book
on the Cellular Jail, Penal Settlement in Andamans. He could not avoid
commenting,

“These
undoubtedly indicate that the incarceration in the Andamans had produced a
great change on the great revolutionary leaders and their attitude towards the
British Government and their view of destroying it by revolution or secret
conspiracies had suffered a radical change.”[xii]

R. C. Majumdar, after in-depth study of
the British archival material on the Cellular Jail, compared the same with the
Savarkar memoirs which the latter penned after coming out of the jail. He paid
special attention to the minutes of the meeting, which took place between the
Home Member of the Governor General’s Council, Sir Reginald Craddock and
Savarkar. It was during this meeting that Savarkar presented his mercy petition
to the British Government. After going through all these documents, Majumdar
straightforwardly concluded:

“While
Savarkar had changed his views, the Government view remained the same as
before. Savarkar for example, said that ‘if Gokhale’s resolution on compulsory
education in the Legislative Council is accepted by the Government, and if such
measures of progress are assured to the Indians that they may rise as a nation,
then all the revolutionaries will turn to the path of peace’. ‘If we advance
definitely through methods of peace, it is immoral for us to enter on methods
of violence’. To this Craddock replied: “I am sorry you are entirely wrong
there, for they are still advocating terrorism and they still swear by you. In
India and in America your followers are still busy with their plans of secret
societies and revolutionary activities.”[xiii]

Craddock’s
description of the above reality when Savarkar was in attendance also provides
answer to the question that why despite Savarkar’s begging for mercy from the
British masters, he was not released. The Hindutva brigade often claims that
Savarkar’s mercy petitions were a tactical move to get freedom in order to
secure another opportunity for fully working for the freedom of the country. It
is further argued by them that the British Government understood this ruse of
Savarkar and it was for this reason that his jail term was not abated and if it
was not so the government could have released him. However Majumdar’s
description makes it clear why Savarkar was not released. It is true that he
had surrendered before the British might but nationalist revolutionaries in
India and outside, oblivious of this fact, still held him as an icon of India’s
liberation. The situation demanded that Savarkar must be kept imprisoned in
order to convince the revolutionaries about the futility of their cause. When
the rulers needed Savarkar outside the jail to break Hindu-Muslim unity in
early 1920s, they took no time in setting him free though he was awarded double
jail term of fifty years.

The
British decided to wait and watch cautiously so far as the question of any kind
of remission to Savarkar was concerned. The ball was in Savarkar’s court and he
needed to prove his words by his deeds.

Surely,
Savarkar did not disappoint the rulers. He started keeping aloof from the
fellow revolutionary prisoners, a fact corroborated by Trailokyanath
Chakravarti in his memoirs. According to his account, on an average three
prisoners in the Cellular Jail committed suicide every month. This was simply
because of the brutal treatment meted out to the prisoners. The prisoners
decided to defy the repression through open defiance. However, Savarkar and few
others refused to join the struggle. Non-participation by Savarkar and others
in the ongoing struggle of fellow prisoners in the Cellular Jail helped the
British rulers in overcoming the criticism that there was no rule of law there.

According to R. C.
Majumdar when the news of the death of prisoners and protest hunger strike in
the Cellular Jail was published in the Bengalee of Calcutta and its
editor Surendra Nath Banerjee asked many questions in the Council about the
state of affairs in that jail. It was stated on behalf of the Government that
the trouble was solely the work of a few wicked prisoners; the leading
prisoners had no sympathy and did not join with them. This was partly true.
For, as stated above, Barin Ghose and Savarkar brothers did not join the
strike. Chakravarti says in his memoir that the Savarkar brothers secretly
encouraged us but when asked to join us they refused. This and similar remarks
of Chakravarti mentioned above cast very uncharitable aspersions against
notable revolutionary leaders like Savarkar and Barin Ghose.[xiv]

Savarkar
offered his own explanation for keeping aloof from the struggle of political
prisoners. According to his memoirs:

“Some of the
political prisoners were of opinion that the lead in the strike should be taken
by the older members among us, that is by those who had spent more years in
that prison. It was also for them to formulate demands on behalf of us all. But
I explained to them how the purpose of the strike may be defeated by such steps
and how our cause was likely to suffer by it. If I were openly to lead them,
Mr. Barrie and the authorities over him would get the opportunity they needed
to take off all the concessions which had come to me and old political
prisoners according to jail rules, and would put me back in solitary
confinement. And the essential publicity of the strike by correspondence,
personal messages and similar other methods will suffer, and the means of
getting news from India through newspapers and other sources would come to an
end…To risk one’s life for such a petty object was to kill the national
movement itself, and if I was to plunge in the strike I must not withdraw from
it, whatever the cost be of such a strike. Hence it was for the young and the
energetic among us to shoulder the burden, and these hundred and odd persons
must by turns keep up the agitation and all the activities connected with it.

The last and the
most important reasons for my abstaining from it was that I would have
forfeited thereby my right of sending a letter to India. It was a rule that a
letter was allowed to be sent annually by one whose record during the year was
clear of any punishment. If I were punished or went on strike, my right would
go along with it, and to be deprived of my right was not only to harm the
strike, but, more important than that, to lose the chance of working for the
freedom of the political prisoners themselves.”[xv]

However,
Majumdar unconvinced by the logic of Savarkar wrote:

How far the younger generation of the political prisoners was impressed by it, it is difficult to say, but the comments of Chakravarti indicate that at least one section was not quite satisfied. In any case, the younger groups stuck to their programme and continued the general strike.[xvi]

It is admitted by Savarkar’s biographer,
Keer too, that

“Savarkar
was given the work of a clerk and afterwards was allowed to work as the foreman
of the oil depot and department in the latter part of 1920.”[xvii]

It is pathetic to
draw parallels between Shivaji’s heroic deeds against Mughal rulers of India
and surrender of Savarkar before the British rulers. The Hindutva camp tries to
brush aside the fact that this ‘Veer patriot’ Savarkar, though sentenced for 50
years (in 1910-1911), was in the Cellular Jail for less than 10 years and was
finally released in 1924 from Yerwada Jail in Maharashtra. Thus he was able to
secure remission of more than 35 years. There were hundreds of other revolutionaries
who in the Cellular Jail and other jails remained incarcerated for full terms
of their convictions. They are also keeping mum about thousands of martyrs like
Bhagat Singh, Chandershekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan,
Sukhdev, Rajguru and Roshan Singh who neither begged for mercy nor were shown
any leniency. There was also large number of Ghadar revolutionaries and Bengal
‘terrorists’ who refused “to plead with the British authorities for mercy.
Nor did they agree to give up their struggle for India’s liberty in exchange of
their own personal liberty.”[xviii]  The saddest part is that the photo of such a
coward is displayed not only in the Maharashtra Assembly but also in the
Parliament House of India!

[This
is an abridged version of a chapter titled ‘Myth 2: Savarkar’s Mercy Petitions were a ruse to secure freedom in order to work
for the liberation of the motherland’ in HINDUTVA-SAVARKAR UNMASKED by Shamsul Islam (Media House, Delhi,
email: books.mediahouse@gmail.com). This title is available in Hindi (Pharos
Media, Delhi, email: books@pharosmedia.com) and Marathi (Sugawa Prakashan,
Pune, email: vilaswaghpune@gmail.com)].

Shamsul Islam

May 5, 2019


[i] Y. D. Phadke, ‘A complex
Hero’, The Indian Express, August 31, 2004, Delhi.

[ii]
Tarun Vijay (editor of Hindi mouthpiece of the RSS Panchajanya)
In
‘Veer patriot’ Outlook, September
6, 2004, Delhi.
[iii]
Ved Rahi cited in ‘Savarkar’s untold story’, Organizer, September 26,
2004,
Delhi.  
[iv]
Cited in R. C. Majumdar, Penal Settlement in Andamans,
Government of India,
Delhi, 1975, pp. 211-213.
 

[v] National
Archives, Delhi. Also reproduced by A. G. Noorani, ‘Savarkar’s Mercy Petition’,
Frontline, 12-15 March 2005.

[vi]
Ibid., p. 206.
[vii]
Ibid.

[viii] Ibid., p. 211.

[ix] Dhananjay Keer, Veer
Savarkar
, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1988, p. vii.

[x] Ibid., pp.
163-164.

[xi] Ibid., pp.
218-219.

[xii] R. C. Majumdar,
op.cit., p. 98.

[xiii] Ibid., pp.
201-202.

[xiv] RC Majumdar, op
cited, p. 241.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Ibid., p. 242.

[xvii] Keer, op. cited,
p. 155.

[xviii] Manini
Chatterjee, ‘The Kala Pani story’ The
Indian Express
, September 21, 2004,

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