V. Sundaram, I.A.S.
December 24, 2004
As a student of
history and constitutional law, I am very familiar with the principle of
collective responsibility which forms the basis of any cabinet system of
Government in a parliamentary democracy. The UPA Government, after
getting an “unprecedentedly massive popular mandate”, has given a comic
blow to this long established principle of Government. In the Veer
Savarkar controversy now raging in parliament, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee made a
statement on behalf of the Government of India in which he clarified that
the Board of Trustees of the Indian Oil Corporation had taken the
decision to remove a quotation of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966)
from the newly installed “Swatantraya Jyot” in the Cellular Jail at Port
Blair in the Andamans. He made a seminal observation to the effect that
“…just because the Minister is its Chairman, it does not make it a
George Orwell had
Ministerial characters like Mr. Pranab Mukherjee in mind when he wrote
with biting but realistic sarcasm: “Political language – and with
variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to
Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder
respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.
The comedy is that Mr. Pranab Mukherjee has forgotten that all political
parties including his own have to die at last of swallowing their own
lies. The truth relating to the whole affair has fallen between the
troika of splintered responsibility represented by the Board of Trustees
of Indian Oil Corporation, the Union Petroleum Minister who happens to be
its Chairman and the Central Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister.
dressed in brief authority like the Union Petroleum Minister and the Union
Defence Minister cannot erase the names of fearless, selfless, and
matchless freedom fighters like Veer Savarkar (who never aspired or angled
for any Ministerial office!) from the minds and hearts of the people for
immemorial ages. Placement and replacement of memorial plaques are under
the control of Governmental authorities. Thoughts and memories cannot be
proscribed or confiscated by any Government. They will continue to
flourish for centuries because they are beyond the control of Governments.
Abiding and permanent places of glorious men like Veer Savarkar in history
are indeed independent of dissolutions of legislatures and parliaments,
caprice of constituencies and even of the course of time.
Bernard Shaw said that
get hold of facts first before you distort them. The observations
of Rajaji, (who himself was hated by the Congress High Command from 1942
to 1945) should be borne in mind in this context: “Facts do not
cease to exist by our ignorance or cussed refusal to recognize them”.
I would like all the
ministers in the UPA Government to bear in mind the following facts about
the history of struggle for Indian independence, V.D. Savarkar's place is
unique. He had a firm belief that only a strong, armed revolt by Indians
India from the British.
extraordinary Hindu scholar (he is one who coined Indian words for
telephone, photography, the parliament among others), a recklessly brave
revolutionary and fiercely patriotic leader. It was he who uncovered the
Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
his high school days, he used to organize Shivaji Utsav and
Ganesh Utsav, started by
Tilak (whom Savarkar considered as his Guru) and used these occasions
to put up plays on nationalistic themes.
founded Abhinav Bharat Society in Pune where he had his college
education. As a student leader fighting for our freedom he was expelled
from the hostel and at one point from the college as well. However he
managed to get the prestigious Shivaji Scholarship to study law at London
and the College authorities had to make way for his scholastic journey to
London, even while pursuing Law as a student, he attracted the attention
of the Scotland Yard for his revolutionary activities. He wrote a
biography of Gieuseppe Mazzini, the great revolutionary leader of modern
Italy in Marathi Language and the manuscript of this book was smuggled out
of England and later published by his brother Baba. This book created a
public wave. 2000 copies were sold out secretly, read and re-read. His
brother, however, was imprisoned for printing the book.
keen on bringing out an authentic book on The Great Indian Revolt
which the British had termed as “Sepoy Mutiny” of 1857. This
sacred and self-chosen task was completed by Veer Savarkar in London when
he wrote in Marathi his immortal book called “The Indian War of
could not get it printed in Europe. Though the manuscript found its way
to India, due to tight British vigilance, all printing presses in Bombay
and Pune were raided by the Police and therefore it could not be printed
in India at that time. The great revolutionaries assisting Veer
Savarkar however saw to it that the manuscript was smuggled out of India
to Europe where it was unfortunately lost. An English version of this
book, therefore, became a necessity. Assisted in this venture by other
revolutionaries who had come to study for Law and Civil Service in London,
was published in Holland by Madam Bhikaji Cama without any cover or
name. The cover pages of popular classics like ‘Don Quixote’, ‘Oliver
Twist’, etc. were used for the book and successfully smuggled to India.
One Box with false bottom was used to take copies of this book at great
risk by a Muslim friend who later became Chief Minister of Punjab! The
book thus reached the right people through secret sympathizers in Ireland,
France, Russia, USA, Egypt, Germany and Brazil.
in London Veer Savarkar organized festivals like Raksbhabandhan and Guru
Gobind Singh Jayanti and tried to create awareness among the Indian
students. These festivals were banned by the British Government. The
slogan Savarkar coined for these Indian festivals became a unifying
One Country. One God
One Caste, One Mind
Brothers all of us
DURING THIS STIRRING PERIOD THAT SAVARKAR HELPED DESIGN THE FIRST INDIAN
NATIONAL FLAG, WHICH MADAM BHIKAJI CAMA UNFURLED AT THE WORLD
SOCIALIST CONFERENCE AT STUTTGART, IN GERMANY.
Revolutionary activities of the time in London, Mumbai, Pune and Nasik
were traced back to the guidance of Veer Savarkar in London. His speeches
and articles were viewed as seditious and his friends were charged with
the preparation of Bombs and transportation of arms (pistols) illegally.
Finally Veer Savarkar was arrested and sent back to India for trial in
1910 by a ship called “Morena”
and his friends like VVS Iyer attempted to make a brave escape from the
ship at Marseilles Port in France in 1910. Their heroic act became a
glorious and legendary chapter in the history of our freedom movement.
Unfortunately for Savarkar the French Police on Guard captured him and
handed him over to the British Authorities.
Savarkar was tried in India for acts of treason and sedition and illegal
transportation of weapons and sentenced to 50 years’ jail and
deported to the Blackwaters (kalapani) at Andaman Cellular Jail.
(Veer Savarkar went there as a great patriot and freedom fighter and not
as a petty Cabinet Minister with official pomp and paraphernalia!!). He
spent 16 long years in Andaman Jail where conditions were inhuman. Every
day he did the back-breaking job of stone breaking, rope making and
milling. He had to grind the copra in mill, tied like oxen. He had to
take out 30 pounds of oil every day. (Not half a dozen public or
parliamentary speeches on trivial or bestial themes with bravado and
alacrity as are being made by our elected MPs and Cabinet Ministers every
spending 16 years in the Cellular Jail at Port Blair, Andaman, Savarkar
was transferred to the Ratnagiri Jail and then kept under house arrest.
time he was brought to Ratnagiri Jail, he was already well known
throughout the world for his great book “1857 – War of
Two generations of patriotic Indians were influenced by his magnum opus.
The second edition was printed in the USA by Savarkar’s revolutionary
friends. The third edition was brought out by Baghat Singh and its
Punjabi and Urudu translations followed soon thereafter and were widely
India and the Far East.
the National Army of Subash Chandra Bose, Tamil translation of this
work of Veer Savarkar was read out every day like a Bible by the South
Indian Soldiers in Singapore, though nobody knows till today who
translated it into Tamil.
earnestly believed that Indian Independence became a reality not because
of a few individuals, leaders or sections of society. It became possible
because of the participation of the commoner who prayed to his family
deity every day. He said that the youngsters who went to gallows to see
their motherland free were the greatest Veeradhiveers.
Sir Walter Scott wrote
the following beautiful lines:
Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said
“This is my own, my native land”
The tragicomedy in our national public life today is that the refrain in
the immortal lines of Sir Walter Scott which I studied in school 50 years
ago is being changed with UPA aplomb and enthusiasm:
Breathes there the man
with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said
is my own, my Sonia land”
Against the above background, we can now compare the life and work of
Pranab Mukherjee, Mani Sankar Iyer and the like with the life of Veer
Savarkar with no less ruthlessly ‘secular’ and
‘majority-neglecting’ objectivity. His glorious life of struggle,
suffering and self-sacrifice for the sacred cause of Indian freedom would
be remembered for generations to come long after all the so-called
distinguished members of the UPA Government today are forgotten and put
into the dustbin of history.
glorious deeds of Selfless Heroes like Veer Savarkar will continue to
gleam and glow across the gloom of centuries and continue to enrich the
soil of the nation. To conclude in the words of a great historian: “Nature
renews herself and covers yesterday’s battlefield with green grass and
flowers and the blood that is shed feeds the soil and gives sustenance and
stimulation to new life”.
V. Sundaram, I.A.S.
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