Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Monday, November 4, 2013

Shivaji and Savarkar

Hi, Everyone! Anyone who has read Savarkar’s biography, even in a cursory manner, is conscious of the immense admiration and respect Savarkar had for Shivaji—from the earliest childhood. Savarkar’s chapter on Shivaji in his book Hindu Padpadshahi (find an e-book @ gives a very good idea of this too. Time and again Savarkar has hailed Shivaji as the heroic king who wrested back large portions of India from the Mughals and actively chased a “Hindavi Swaraj.”

It seems utterly preposterous and ridiculous to me that anyone should point accusing fingers at Savarkar saying he disrespected Shivaji. It is inconceivable!

Yet we live in an imperfect world—when mud is slung at anyone it tends to stick, particularly when it is accompanied by a sensationalized, wanton act of vandalism like burning copies of (Savarkar’s) books. And so, much though it goes against the grain to give even an appearance of credibility to such fallacy by mentioning it or offering vindication for Savarkar, I have decided to do it.

Here are some examples which illuminate just what place Shivaji held in Savarkar’s heart and soul.

  •  In 1902, Savarkar composed an aarti, a song of worship, in honor of Shivaji. Every Friday as a part of the Ferguson club activity, this aarti was sung before a picture of Shivaji.

  •  In 1903, Savarkar composed the poem Shivaveer (Shivaji: the Hero) in honor of Shivaji.

  • He has also composed another poem, Hindunrusimha, praising Shivaji.

(I have given all the three poems at the end of this post.)

  • The very first function organized by Savarkar’s Mitra Mela was a celebration of Shivaji Jayanti (birth anniversary.) This is a practice he continued to follow down the road.

  • In 1905, his group popularized his ballads on Sinhagad and Baji Prabhu. Both ballads extolled the heroics of Shivaji with Tanaji and Baji Prabhu. Using these incidents of guerilla warfare, Savarkar subtlely promoted the idea of freedom. The people in Maharashtra just loved the ballads.
  • Sometime after this a Shivaji festival was celebrated at Raigad. These ballads were sung there. The audience was enthralled by them, but Daji Khare, who was presiding over the event, became nervous by their inflammatory words. So fiery were the words that when the audience joined in the singing, Khare, a friend of Tilak, told him to close the show down as he did not want to be party to any unconstitutional activity! 
  • Babarao published this ballads in 1906 and three years later the Government proscribed them.
Unfortunately, I have not translated these ballads yet.

  • In the women’s organization, parallel to Savarkar’s Mitra Mela, each member was required to take this pledge: “In the name of the Motherland, Shivaji Raja who won freedom through war, and Bhavani Mata who gives strength, I hereby give witness before Shivaji and Bhavani Durga Devi that I shall use swadeshi goods only, love my country more than my life, strive for my country’s freedom and help those who are doing so.”
  • In 1906, in the patriotic song, Priyakar Hindustan (O Beloved Hindustan,) which Savarkar specially composed for the occasion commemorating the death anniversary of Guru Govind Singh, organized in a grand manner at Caxton Hall, London on December 29, 1908, he most certainly included Shivaji as one of the virtues of Hindustan.

जिजा जन्म दे शिवा जिच्यास्तव गुरु पुत्रांचे प्राण

जिच्यास्तवचि त्या कुमारिकांसी विस्तवांत ये न्हाण

Here too was born of Jijabai, Chatrapati Shivaji,

And maidens who embraced the pyre for their honor.

Bricked to death here were the Sons of the Guru,

So staunch were they in their loyal fervor!

  • Again in 1908, when he composed another patriotic song, Hind Sundara Ti (Hind, the Beautiful One,) he makes a mention of Shivaji.

प्रताप शिव बंदा I श्रीगुरू गोविंदा
संभव दे उद्भव दे I दे जी उत्स्फुर्ती II II

To Rana Pratap, Shivaji, Banda Bairagi, lo
And Guru Gobind Singhji too
She gave birth, beginning, n’ inspiration so!

  • Savarkar followed Shivaji’s precept of manipulating a powerful enemy any which way, especially from a position of great weakness. He also advocated others to do so too. To give an example, he quoted instances from life of Shivaji to convince the political prisoners in Andman who had received amnesty to sign the pledges. I am giving here the incident as I have written it in my novel Burning for Freedom:

“Soon enough, general amnesty was granted to several of them here but not unconditionally. They had to sign a pledge refraining from any political activity for a specified time. This offended most of them. It was an infringement upon their rights! A slur upon their patriotism! Sign a pledge? Never! Savarkar was very heartened to see that despite all their sufferings, they were still such staunch patriots. Such Sons of India should definitely be free to fight for their country!
‘Brothers, there is nothing wrong in signing this pledge. Sign it and be free—free to work for the freedom of our motherland.’
‘Tatyarao, with the signing of this pledge our hands are tied! It forbids us to do just that very thing.’
‘Ah, but do you have to follow its dictate?’ asked Savarkar passionately. ‘No! A pledge imposed upon us by a foreign enemy power is worth only the paper it is written on. There is no reason to stay committed to it! It is merely a means to an end—only an avenue to break the locks of this jail.’
‘But that would be deceitful, Tatyarao!’
‘Deceitful to whom?’ exclaimed Savarkar. ‘When we have no constitutional rights and are crushed into subjugation by arbitrary laws of an enemy power, honesty as you mean it is not a luxury we can indulge in!’—he raised the palms of his hands—’the only honesty and truth for us is reinstating the honor of our beloved Hindustan. We follow any path that circumstances force us to take. If the British rule us by unlawful means, we go against this law of theirs to gain freedom. When under duress we make petitions and even sign pledges!’
‘Yes, Tatyarao, there is much in what you say. But it still seems cowardly to sign such papers. The blood of heroes like Shivaji flows in our veins! What, shall we supplicate before the enemy? History will label us as cowards and hypocrites!’
‘We cannot swerve from our path by fear of adverse public opinion! Shivaji was very brave indeed. Yet when needed, he took a conciliatory position with Aurangzeb. At one time, Shivaji suffered many losses from the mighty Mughal forces led by Mirza Raja Jaisingh and Dilerkhan. He made a small capitulation and signed the Treaty of Purandar. He was forced to hand over to Aurangzeb many forts and go to Agra. Here he was treacherously imprisoned by Aurangzeb. Shivaji sent petition after petition professing loyalty to him, all the while planning his escape! It was his strategic move to lull the enemy. Can Shivaji be accused of cowardice? Change of heart? Never! We must also admire the forethought with which he killed the mighty Afzal Khan by ripping open his stomach with the tiger claws. If he had not broken his promise of being unarmed in that meeting, Afzal Khan’s plot to crush him to death would have been successful!’
‘Tatyarao, indeed, we did not see it in this light.’”

  • Time and again Savarkar had said India needs a Shivaji. Keer writes in his biography of Savarkar that in 1952, in one of his lectures he said that “if God were to ask him to beg for a boon, he would pray him to bless India with a Chandragupta or a Shivaji to wipe out the despondency prevailing in the minds of the younger generation and make the nation valorous and great. He said he preferred a rule of a benevolent great leader like Shivaji to an ignorant, weak-kneed democracy.”

  • In 1953, when addressing a big meeting at the Jackson Garden in Nasik, he declared that the name of the garden should be changed to Shivaji Garden. He also stated that Indian Statesmen should follow the tactics and policy of Shivaji, who was a real statesman.

After reading this (and the poems below) there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind in just how high an esteem Savarkar held Shivaji.

-  Anurupa

Click here for PDF

Click here for PDF

Aarti on Shivaji composed by Savarkar

जय देव, जय देव, जय जय शिवराया
या, या अनन्य शरणां, आर्या ताराया

आर्यांच्या देशावरी म्लेच्छांचा घाला
आला आला सावध हो शिवभूपाला
सद्गदीता भूमाता दे तुज हाकेला
करूणारव भेदूनी तव हृदय का गेला
जय देव, जय देव, जय जय शिवराया

श्रीजगदंबा जी स्तव शुंभादीकभक्षी
दशमुख मर्दुनी जी श्रीरघुवर संरक्षी
ती पूता भूमाता, म्लेंच्छा ही छळता
तुजविण शिवराया तिज कोण दुजा त्राता
जय देव, जय देव, जय जय शिवराया

त्रस्त आम्ही दीन आम्ही, शरण तुला आलो
परवशतेच्या पाशी मरणोन्मुख झालो
साधुपरित्राणाया, दुष्कृती नाशाया
भगवन् भगवद्गीता सार्थ कराया या

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Savarkar Case

October 25, 1910—that was the day that the Savarkar Case, as it came to be known, was submitted for arbitration in the Hague court. This date is extremely important for it marks the supreme success of Savarkar. That one man—and one belonging to a subject nation, having no rights whatsoever, at that—should have, by his daring, dynamic brilliance brought two super-powers to their metaphoric knees is incredible!

Britain and France, two powerful imperialistic powers, who routinely crushed the rights of their subject nations, had terrible punishments and transportations meted out to the people of their colonies, were now in the ignoble position of opposing each other over the violation of the rights of one “native” man in the international court in Hague, no less.

It was a novel situation for the arbitrators of the Hague, too. In the days of undoubted “white supremacy,” they were arbitrating over the rights of a “native” man who by virtue of belonging to a subject nation had no rights!

No wonder this case is still cited and a case study in books on international law even today.

In Britain’s case, they had additional egg on their face, for Britain was a staunch supporter of political refugees—of other countries, of course! Savarkar ripped that mask off Britain’s face, certainly! Britain, a country who gave asylum to political refugees, who refused to extradite them, and was considered a champion of political refugees, now lay exposed by their treatment of Savarkar and his case.

In Savarkar’s case they had to go to extremes—concocting a warrant, bending the British law to execute it, breaking international law of jurisdiction to keep him in their possession, trying him unjustly in a murder case, thus disqualifying him for the status of political prisoner—to keep him their prisoner and away from inciting the Indians to fight for their freedom.

But of course, the arbitration in the Hague was just a sop to quiet the international uproar the Savarkar Case had aroused. Many people (then and now) were confused as to the issue of the arbitration. This arbitration was not for deciding Savarkar’s right to asylum in France, or even for deciding if he is a political prisoner. The sole purpose of this arbitration was to decide if Savarkar was to be returned to France. And there were many loopholes to it:

  • In 1910 “International law” was no more than words. No actual law existed then.
  • No country could be compelled to follow the dictates of the Award given by the court of Hague. 
  • India, as a subject nation, was not even touched by any “international law” that existed then. Not to forget, Government of India had already exercised this freedom by refusing to give up Savarkar and going ahead with his trials without waiting for the Hague Award. 
  • There was no international law to protect the rights of the prisoner kidnapped on foreign soil, as Savarkar was—either then or now!

But there was a law recognized everywhere: law of jurisdiction. And this is the law that Britain broke. By taking Savarkar off French soil, Britain trampled on French jurisdiction. This should have been the Ace in the case that France submitted to the Hague, but their case fails to make the point.

Having studied the Savarkar Case, it seemed to me the arbitration was a masterpiece of evasion and turning a blind eye. I have put this in a nutshell in this video:

To know the particulars of Savarkar’s Marseilles escape watch this video:

Or click here for an interactive PDF or PPT slideshow.

Read here my translation of the L'Humanite articles that spoke out vocifererously in favor of Savarkar.

Read here what Guy Aldred has to say about the Savarkar Case in his Savarkar Special issue of the Herald of the Revolt.

Read the Savarkar Case documents here. (Translation of the French Case to be released in February 2014.)

Salute to Savarkar!