There are two peculiar points regarding this.
· There are government letters written in 1906 that clearly state that this very same speech was not a threat to the British empire.
· The law that allowed the British to stretch reality to the extent of charging this speech as seditious was not passed until 1908 . . . !
David Garnett understood this injustice to Savarkar and was determined to help without worrying about the consequences to himself.
“After telling him I would do my best to find him a temporary home, I went to Bow Street, where I understood Savarkar was up before the Magistrate. I did not see Savarkar, but found myself being given a searching questioning by Inspector Parker of Scotland Yard. I realized immediately that it would not do to try to be clever. My best line was the truth. But in my answers I exaggerated my ingenuousness. I explained I was a science student who had met Indians in my classes, had visited India House and become acquainted with Savarkar. Seeing he was in trouble I had come along to see if I could help in any way. When and where could I see him?
Parker’s attempts at grilling me broke down before my truthfulness. Finally he told me that as Savarkar was only a remand prisoner I could see him any morning at Brixton Gaol. When I left Bow Street I felt convinced that Parker had classified me as a young fool of no importance----and he was quite right in doing so. I was only eighteen and certainly looked innocent.
Next morning I went to Brixton Gaol. The prison lies at the end of a long cul-de-sac. There was a big door for vehicles with a smaller door in it for men. The visitor to the prison rang a bell and a warder unlocked and opened the smaller door, and the visitor stepped in. The warder immediately locked the door, took his particulars, and walked across to unlock an inner door of steel bars, and the visitor found himself in the prison proper. It was obvious that the warder’s chief duty was to see that the outer and inner doors were never unlocked at the same moment, since there were frequently prisoners passing inside. There was sufficient space between the two doors for a lorry or a Black Maria to stand while they were both shut.
I took in all this at a glance; the strength and weakness of this mediaeval system were instantly apparent to me, and I thought over the weakness of the system as I waited with others in a room. The weakness was the time-lag before the warders in the prison could render help to the forces of law and order outside the gate. Presently we were shepherded along a passage divided into a series of open compartments with arrow-mesh steel wire separating the visitor from the distraught prisoner he had come to see.
The vehement jabber of these distracted creatures, who seemed to be trying to combine whispering with talking at the tops of their voices, was horrible. Presently I came to the compartment where I was to see Savarkar. It was empty. 1 examined the steel mesh netting. A moment or two later he strolled in and was very much surprised to see me. He was perfectly calm and at his ease. I discussed his defense and offered to collect money for it, and to do anything I could to help him. All he wanted at the moment were some clean collars: the size of his neck was only 131/2!—the size of a schoolboy.
From the point of view of the government his arrest was peculiar and required careful handling. They had evidence of his connection with the murder of Mr. Jackson at Nasik, but were not prepared to charge him with it. For the murder occurred while Savarkar was in London and he ought, therefore, to be tried in London. If he were tried in England on, let us say, an incitement-to-murder charge, he would, if convicted, get a sentence of two or three years. If he were tried in India, it would be another matter. The authorities were therefore trying to extradite him to India, but to do so they had to dig up, or manufacture, evidence of crimes committed while he was in India, carefully avoiding reference to the crimes he might have committed in London. This took some time, and while the case was being prepared, Savarkar had to be brought up at Bow Street week after week and remanded, bail being refused.
Eventually, the Indian authorities dug up some speeches that Savarkar had delivered in India several years before, and for which they had had ample opportunity to prosecute him at the time. They then applied for his extradition on that evidence only. The evidence was thin, for the speeches had been delivered at a time when the political atmosphere in India was completely different. The speeches, which had not been thought worth prosecuting him for at the time, had become seditious as the ferment of unrest increased in India.
I wrote a short letter on the subject, which was printed in the Daily News under the heading past offences. Meanwhile, I went practically every week to Brixton Gaol to see Savarkar, taking with me clean collars and handkerchiefs and I collected a few pounds for his legal defense.
Finally, the time came for me to leave Letchworth and I returned to London, sending my luggage by train and walking all the way as far as Finchley, starting about nine o’clock in the morning and getting home to Hampstead about six o’clock in the evening. I had meant to walk the whole way, but my heel chafed and the temptation of the electric tram was too great.
Next morning I went down to Brixton and learned from Savarkar that the documents from India were on the way and that it would only be two or three weeks, at most, before the case came up for trial. There was not the slightest doubt how it would go. I hesitated, waited until the warder walking up and down the corridor was out of earshot and said: “Why not try and escape? I have an idea how it might possibly be managed.”
Savarkar said he had been thinking of it, but had decided he would have more chances of success on the way back to India, but if I had a plan he would be glad if I would work it out. When I had done so, the necessary money would be forthcoming from C.C., with whom I could discuss it freely. I asked Savarkar a number of questions about prison routine and then went down to the Cearne that afternoon to think things out.
Savarkar was taken every week to Bow Street for the formalities of a remand, always in a taxi and not a Black Maria. He was accompanied by one, or sometimes two, detectives. His going up for a weekly remand had become a routine matter and he was taken from the prison at the same time, within two or three minutes.
The essence of my plan was that he was to be rescued at the prison gates, or within a few yards of them. A watcher would note when the taxi which was to take him to Bow Street drove up. A car would then drive up to the prison with supposed visitors, who would overpower the detectives, and Savarkar would jump in the car, which would drive off with him. The essential feature of the rescue was that the rescuers should not avoid arrest, or to escape themselves. They would have to deal with the two detectives, and the taxi-man, but there would not be time for help to arrive from the prison, owing to the routine of the two gates.
At first I thought I should have to find both the rescuers and cars, but I came to the conclusion that it was impossible for me to do so.”
David Garnett even traveled to Paris to make arrangements for Savarkar’s escape, but it all fell through. His father, too, found out what he was up to and hurriedly put a stop to what was certainly David’s treachery to his own country.
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