Wednesday, February 4, 2015

No Rights for Savarkar in Free India

Hi, Everyone! Savarkar is a fifty-year veteran of the Indian freedom struggle. His contribution to the freedom struggle is tremendous. Yet he received no glory, no recognition when India gained freedom. At the very, very least he should have received some rights as a citizen of free democratic India. He didn’t get that either.

On the flimsiest of excuses, a mere trumped up order of the Commissioner of Police, he was arrested from his home on February 5, 1948 in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination. They had no charge they could make against him, but saw fit to throw him in jail and keep him in isolation nevertheless. It was an unforgivable action taken by Nehru’s government.

Below is the excerpt from my Burning for Freedom which covers this shameful episode.

“Savarkar had issued his statement condemning the assassination of Gandhi. But the media painted Savarkar as the mastermind of the Gandhi-murder plot. Daily vituperation against him poured out. It didn’t seem to matter to anyone that there was no evidence, nothing to support this assumption! The Government went on a spree of making arrests. This government persecution struck fear in the hearts of many. Police were also making sweeping searches in Savarkar Sadan. These were grim days. Savarkar issued another statement, reiterating his view that anarchy was the great enemy of a newly independent nation.

February 4: Deputy Police Commissioner Nagarwala came to Savarkar Sadan with the State doctor, Dr. Mehta. Savarkar had to undergo a medical check-up and was declared fit—even though he was running a temperature at the moment and had been ailing the last two years.

February 5: At dawn, the familiar banging on the door was heard. Narayan, Gajanan’s brother who was taking over his duties in his absence, opened the door.

“We are here to arrest Mr. Vinayak Savarkar as a measure of preventive detention under the Bombay Public Security Measures Act!” announced Officer John Claus.

“Preventive detention …! What do you mean?” exclaimed Narayan.

“The Government of Bombay claims that Mr. Savarkar is promoting hatred by inciting Hindus against Muslims.’ He is also ‘inciting persons to commit acts of violence against Muslims and persons who are endeavoring to bring about unity between Hindus and Muslims.’ He is, therefore, acting ‘in a manner prejudicial to the public safety and peace of Greater Bombay’ and so must be detained.”

Narayan was chilled to the core. What a concocted reason for detaining Tatyarao…! The provisions of this Act were very nasty too. If charged with conspiracy to murder, the sentence was severe—perhaps death or transportation—and conviction was much easier to obtain for it than for a charge of abetment to murder. It would be a trial without a jury with only fifteen days time for appeals. Oh God! Oh dear God, he thought, the Government really wants to vanquish Tatyarao!

On shaky legs he went to wake Savarkar up. He was awake and getting his stuff together. Savarkar, very calm, very controlled, very remote, walked down the staircase toward Claus. Vishwas, Narayan, and Mai trailed behind him. Each wanted to hang on to Savarkar, prevent him from being taken—rail … rant … something! But Savarkar scorned a display of emotions at this time. Yes, this arrest, this whole persecution of him that the Government was indulging in, was a great insult, a great injustice; but neither he nor his family would dignify it with a protest or an emotional outburst. That was that! And so the little troop came down the stairs with whatever composure they could muster.

Just as Savarkar was about to step out, he stopped short. “Excuse me, sir. I would like to use the toilet,” he said.

Claus was taken aback; a vision of Savarkar’s historic escape from the bathroom porthole of the SS Morea shimmered before his eyes.

Savarkar gave a wry laugh, reading his mind. “Do not worry, sir. My request is not a ruse. I am too old now to pull off a stunt like that! Nor is there any reason for it.”

Claus looked sheepishly at the floor. A few minutes later, Savarkar was ready to get into the police van.

“I am a second-timer you can say, sir,” he said to Claus as he stepped in.

“What do you mean, Mr. Savarkar?” asked Claus, puzzled.

“I am an old hand at going to jail, you know. For fourteen years I was in prison in British India, and now I get to experience jail in free India too.”

Claus was discomfitted. He was not enjoying this duty—at all. The door of the van slammed shut and the van moved off, taking Savarkar to the same jail as Keshu and Gajanan.

Now Mai and Vishwas held each other and cried helplessly, as the van whisked Savarkar into the faint light of the dawn. His family, friends, associates, and even his lawyer would not hear from him again for a long, long time—until March 23, in fact.”

 
Anurupa