Wednesday, March 29th, 2023 12:09:18

Politics behind Gandhi vs. Savarkar

By Kaushal Kishore
Updated: January 31, 2023 11:43 am

Gandhi and Savarkar are part of public discourse these days for different reasons. The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the United Nations headquarter at New York is a gift from India. It was installed in North Lawn Garden in December with a view to promote pluralism and peaceful co-existence along with removal of discrimination. At a juncture, when United Nations failed to address the prolonged war in Ukraine, it can remind an old adage, Majboori Ka Nam Mahatma Gandhi (the synonym of compulsion is Mahatma Gandhi).

Meanwhile, the Karnataka government has unveiled, in the assembly, portraits of the seven leaders, including Gandhi and Savarkar. This portrait of the revolutionary Savarkar, who was a victim of life-long injustice, enthused his admirers. On the other hand Karnataka Congress leaders staged a sit-in outside the assembly to promote the binary based on Gandhi versus Savarkar. In the recent years, an unnecessary comparison intensified between these two incomparable freedom fighters, and in this case the year 2022 overshadows the previous years. Rahul Gandhi seems to play a key role in it. The British government repeated his 25 years jail term, and this tradition was repeated in independent India by sending him jail twice. Here Rahul Gandhi is trying hard to follow footsteps of Nehru.

Gandhi’s two sons—Manilal and Ramdas—opposed the hanging of Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte in the assassination case. Vinoba Bhave and Ramdas had tried to meet them in the jail unsuccessfully to present Bapu’s views. Gandhian activists from different parts of the world had made the government aware of his ideology and opposed the death penalty with a demand for releasing the culprits. The then Governor General of India C. Rajagopalachari, Prime Minister Nehru and Home Minister Patel had preferred to ignore their leader’s view in order to teach a lesson of the rule book. Even today, the power politics seems to focus on Gandhi due to their helplessness in Ukraine. One can remember him or utter his name only after fulfilling the condition to forgive Godse and company. His supporters have tried hard to reveal their identities with the acceptance to it since the end of January in 1948. Savarkar will be far away from those who cannot do this much.

He was known for revolutionary ideas and the investment in a company that used to publish the periodicals like ‘Agrani’ and ‘Hindu Rashtra’ that Godse and Apte managed. Its opposition to the Gandhian perspective has its own history. On account of it, he was sent to the jail as the main conspirator in the murder case. But the State failed to prove it in the trial court headed of Atma Charan. Going beyond its terms of reference, Kapur Commission has repeated the same mistake. It was presented, in 1969, before the parliament, and denial to a discussion on it led to the old tradition of injustice towards Savarkar. After almost half a century, the Supreme Court has clarified the situation in 2018. After that one can claim to be the top authority while refering to the observation of the Kapur Commission in order to hold Savarkar guilty in the case of Gandhi’s assassination. Politics of Satyagraha was practised by certain Catholics like Martin Luther King Jr and James Douglass in the United States. In 1970s, Douglass has raised voice against the nuclear weapons after the assassination of King. But in the 21st century, he has turned into a victim of politics defined as Gandhi vs Savarkar. He has preferred to indulge in something other than finding the fact like Justice JL Kapur. The so called evidence of Savarkar’s bodyguard Appa Kasar and personal secretary Gajananrao Damle were there, but its production in the court would have exposed the State. Justice Kapur heard most of the people but did not consider to call these two witnesses despite being alive. Douglass presents the old wine in a new bottle to bring the same politics of Gandhi versus Savarkar in his book, Gandhi and the Unspeakable: his final experiment with truth.

Savarkar had compared Gandhi’s murder to patricide. It will pose a threat to the existence of India as a nascent nation. He issued warning to that effect. But the government arrested him to keep in the jail for more than an year. But the friendship between Gandhi and Savarkar since 1906 prevailed over conspiracy. Still his persecution continued even after the court acquitted. Again he was sent to imprisonment in 1950 to please Pakistani leader Liaquat Ali Khan. The High Court bench headed by Justice M.C. Chagla finding him innocent released after 100 days (Veer Savarkar by Keer, 431). This was an injustice that government of independent India inflicted upon him. For the sake of power the political class has continued to use his name like Gandhi’s. As such it emerged as a tool kit.

Rahul Gandhi has been trying hard to focus on Gandhi versus Savarkar binary. After the four years old Supreme Court order, he cannot implicate Savarkar in Gandhi’s assassination. So he has referred to Savarkar’s apology in Maharashtra during the foot march (Bharat Jodo Yatra) to gain attention in the public and media. In true sense, apology is one of Gandhian ideas. Savarkar’s revolutionary ideas were for the participation of the Indian people in politics. Eight years after his arrest, situation changed due to the reforms of 1918 and the Government of India Act of 1919. The British government issued an order to release all political prisoners as a result of Indian participation in the World War I. It has further eliminated need of the apology. Surprisingly injustice continued in his case at the hands of the government of independent India, and it extends to culprits of Gandhi’s assassination after the completion of their jail terms.  Today, there is a tension on the border with China in addition to Gandhi versus Savarkar binary. This kind of politics has not only harmed Savarkar and Gandhi, but also the country and the world. The Gandhian activists known for long protest in the Salt Satyagraha failed to save the fall of Tibet. Rahul Gandhi has taken an aggressive stand on China while ignoring the two things. Gandhi’s statue has found an imminent place among the ruling dispensation that once revered Savarkar. In context of Chinese expansionism, Savarkar and Ambedkar are sill relevant. In case of ignorance towards the truth one can only harm the national interest, however, such a polarisation can benefit the Congress in the next general elections. The leaders engaged in Gandhi versus Savarkar to gain power should not forget the fact that there were similarities between these two public figures. They have kept away from the public office while trying hard to enrich the people politically. Gandhi has maintained untouchability while talking about its removal. In this context Savarkar and Ambedkar are equally important historical figures. In the seventy-fifth year of independence, the country is celebrating Amrit Mahotsav. In such an august atmosphere, it’s not appropriate to engage in the binary of Gandhi versus Savarkar.

By Kaushal Kishore

Comments are closed here.