Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 9: In the Cellular Jail

The Cellular Jail

        Savarkar was awarded two consecutive life sentences (December 4, 1910, and January 31, 1911) of twenty five years transportation to Andaman.

        July 4, 1911: Savarkar was incarcerated in the Cellular Jail.
Plan of the Cellular Jail

·        Cellular Jail was run by a tyrant, David Barrie. There were inhuman rules, especially for the political prisoners:

no recognition of being political prisoners; solitary confinement; restriction on use of toilet facility; no medical aid unless proof was provided (and proof was seldom considered sufficient); unpalatable food—with mice droppings, insects, and dirt and sweat from the cooks’ bodies mixed in; hard labor, including being yoked to the oil mill; no library, restriction on reading, no writing materials; a steady diet of insults and injustice; only one letter per year, and that confiscated if authorities so desired; shackles, handcuffs, cross-bar fetters, chain gang and such punishments given freely.

· Savarkar never forgot his vow to free Hindustan for a second; he made several petitions to work outside that he may escape, but was denied. Despite this he established a spy system and set up communication with his associates, held secret meetings, encouraged all the political prisoners, and gave them lessons to widen their knowledge.

· By 1913: the political prisoners had organized two strikes which led to slightly better conditions. Most of the political prisoners (never Savarkar or Babarao) were allowed to work outside on lighter jobs. In these circumstances, Savarakar organized a campaign of spreading patriotism.

· September, 1913: there was a suspicion that secret bomb-making activity was taking place on the island. Severe restrictions were imposed on them all again. The political prisoners went on another powerful strike (not a hunger strike, Savarkar was against those.)

· The Government repatriated most of the political prisoners in separate jails on mainland India or Burma for the sake of security and loosened the rules for those left behind.

· Savarkar was categorically told that he would remain within the walls of the Cellular Jail and engaged in hard labor for years to come.

-   Anurupa

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 8: The Savarkar Case

Sample of an International Newspaper write-up
The Avertiser, Adelaid, Australia
Savarkar’s forced, unceremonious extradition by the British from France received international publicity (newspaper articles are still extant) thanks to Madame Cama, Shyamji Krishnavarma, and the French Socialist leaders. Both Governments were given flak for their failure to take action in returning Savarkar to France. It was also discussed as an issue (and voted unanimously in favor of) in the International Socialist Conference in Copenhagen in 1910.

· By the time any demand was made at all, Savarkar was within Indian jurisdiction, and the Government of India (very conveniently) refused to give Savarkar up. Being a subject nation, international laws had no relevance to it.

French Newspaper cutting preserved in M. P. T. Acharya's diary for 103 years
· Finally it was decided that the Savarkar Case arbitration would be taken up at the Hague Tribunal Court and both France and Britain would abide by the judgment it gave.

Important point to note: the Hague Arbitration was only to decide the issue of return of Savarkar to France, not the issue of his right to asylum.

· Government of India refused to delay the trial of Savarkar until the Hague judgment was declared. There was good reason for that:

The evidence of Savarkar’s guilt was so flimsy that if returned to France, it was unlikely that his extradition to India would be granted. However, as a convicted murderer there was no chance of the extradition being refused (a treaty between France and Britain disqualified a murderer from being a political refugee.)

· The Arbitration at Hague is a sorry case of evasion and looking the other way. Their Award declared that Savarkar would not be returned to France.

· Till today, the Savarkar Case is a considered a landmark in International law and quoted as a case study.

The Tribunal at Hague

- Anurupa


Monday, April 22, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 7: Marseilles Escape

The 30' fall 
Singlehandedly, Savarkar was responsible for casting a blight on the might of the British Raj and causing it much embarrassment:

(1) To grant the warrant of extradition of Savarkar to Bombay, the British legal system in Britain—so proud of their fairness and laws—compromised itself.
(2) Britain, the Refuge of Political Refugees, who battled with other countries and put spokes in their wheels by giving asylum to political refugees, was now in the position of inventing, disregarding, and breaking laws to squash one colossal danger to their empire: Savarkar.

SS Morea showing location of the porthole

·        July 1, 1910: the SS Morea sailed with Savarkar on board. Knowing that failure would mean a horrendous fate, he still undertook to do the impossible for the tremendous international publicity and recognition it would bring to the Indian freedom cause.

·        July 8, 1910: in the early morning, Savarkar squeezed out of a 13" diameter porthole of a toilet—while a British officer was right outside and he was spotted dangling half in-half out—and dropped to the quay water (a drop of 30') just 2-3 feet away from the edge of the dock. It was the most dangerous, dashing, and daring dive.

·        Before his flabbergasted guards could formulate a plan of action, Savarkar swam to the other end of the dock, climbed the 9' sheer quay wall—using mere toes and fingers to grip—and ran for safety.

·        This created an unprecedented (till today) international situation. To counteract it, the British officers guarding him did the only thing they could do:

(1)  broke the basic international law of jurisdiction

(2)  kidnapped Savarkar off the shores of Marseilles and back to the SS Morea taking aid of a French sergeant for the sake of appearances and

(3)  sent a doctored, not-so-truthful-account to their superiors by telegram.


 -  Anurupa

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 6: Arrest


David Garnett
Paris, Bande Mataram, Aug 17, 1909

·        December 1908-Jan 1909: Babarao identified Savarkar as the writer of letters found in his possession, and the British began weaving their web around Savarkar.

·        May 1909: copies of Government’s English translation of poems published by Babarao and Savarkar’s letters reached London.

·        June 1909: British Government launched a successful concentrated campaign (by letters and telegrams to the concerned authority) to discourage Benchers of Gray’s Inn from calling Savarkar to the Bar. Eventually they were successful. Though the charges made by the Gray’s Inn could not be proved, Savarkar was still not permitted to practice as his activities were declared suspect. (This fact was then later used in the argument to grant the warrant.)

·        After the assassination of Curzon Wylie, Savarkar took a public stand in Caxton Hall in not condemning Madan Lal Dhingra and sent a letter to the Times to justify this. He published Madan Lal’s statement, squashed by the British, in the Daily News on August 16, 1909.

·        November 1909: health shattered, Savarkar went to Wales to recuperate. There he wrote a Marathi book on the history of the Sikhs.

·        January 1910: Savarkar went to Paris since a warrant for his arrest was imminent.

·        February 8, 1910: a warrant was issued against Savarkar by a Bombay Magistrate on the grounds that his offences came within the Fugitive Offenders Act of 1881. The basis for the warrant was flimsy: (1) Savarkar’s speech of 1906, of which there was no available transcript, and was considered innocuous at the time. (2) He was also being extradited to Bombay for an alleged crime he had committed in 1909 in England while living in England.

·         March 13, 1910: Savarkar returned to London to show his mettle as the leader of the revolutionaries by squarely facing the British might and was arrested at the station.

Briston Prison, London

-   Anurupa

Monday, April 15, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 5: London activities

Madam Cama
Shyamji Krishnavarma


·       Savarkar’s foreign propaganda (publishing articles, still extant, in foreign newspapers and meeting revolutionaries of other countries) gave swift results. August 24, 1907, Madam Cama, as a delegate representing India, waved the flag of independent India in the International Socialist Conference and gave a fiery speech. The Kaiser of Germany in his reply to President Woodrow Wilson said “absolute political independence of India was one of the indispensable conditions of world peace.”

·       Secret pamphlets and brochures were being published and sent to be circulated amongst the Indian soldiers. Fiery speeches were targeted to stir all Indians, Sikhs, Muslims, and the Princes as well.

·       Savarkar sent regular newsletters to India, wrote the book Joseph Mazzini in June 1907 and Indian War of Independence, 1857, in 1908. This book was banned by the Government of India before its publication. Savarkar played tag with the British police to get this book published. He sent it to India packed in the covers of innocuous books.

(Watch this to learn more about it:

·       He organized guns to be smuggled to India, sent people to study bomb-making technology and arranged to send copies of the manuals to India.

·       It being difficult to target Savarkar lawfully by British laws, Government of India targeted Babarao. He was sentenced to transportation to Andaman on June 9, 1909.

·       On July 1, 1909, Madanlal Dhingra shot Sir Curzon Wylie dead as the first act of the revolution to free India.

·       Now both the British and the Indian Government concentrated all effort to entrap Savarkar and put an end to his revolutionary activities.
-   Anurupa

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 4: London Goals


India House, London
Plaque on India House

·        Under Savarkar’s leadership India House, London, became the revolutionary headquarters. Abhinav Bharat gathered strength here and he established the Free India Society to carry out all the public programs such as regular meetings, celebration of festivals and glory of Indian heroes etc.

·        He gave the “Sepoy Mutiny” the status and deserving honor of the Indian War of Independence. On May 10, 1907, he celebrated its Golden Jubilee. His speech “Oh Martyrs” rocked everyone. From then on the British police kept a watchful eye on him.

·        Savarkar’s goal’s in London:

(1) stirring national pride and patriotism in the Indian students

(2) stirring patriotism in the Indian army

(3) making connections with revolutionaries of other countries (Ireland, Egypt, Turkey etc.)

(4) making practical arrangements for a revolution (procuring arms, instructions on bomb-making)

(5) studying British law to circumvent it in the revolution

(6) writing patriotic and inspiring books.

Savarkar was successful in carrying out these goals in the three short years he had at hand, but to do that he had to come under the British radar.
Savarkar with London friends

- Anurupa

Monday, April 8, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 3: Fergusson College, Pune, Days

Savarkar, in Fergusson College
·       In January 1902 Savarkar enrolled in Fergusson College and took Pune by storm.

·       In 1904, he renamed Mitra Mela society as the Abhinav Bharat. It was run along the lines of Secret Societies of Ireland and Russia. Aggressive propaganda spread this society far and wide.

·       By 1905 by the power of his eloquence, personality, and oratory he had stirred several youths into patriotism. He started a paper, Aryan Weekly. Conservative professors called him “the Devil.”

·       He advocated swadeshi to all and members of his group were required to wear swadeshi clothes, read extensively, and exercise and swim regularly, besides doing well in their studies.

·       He also took part in college plays, particularly a Shakesperian tragedy.

·       October 7, 1905: Savarkar organized the first bonfire of British-made cloth. For this he was fined `10 and expelled from the college hostel.

·       June 9, 1906: having won a scholarship from Shyamji Krishnavarma, Savarkar left for England ostensibly to study law. In reality he wanted to bring his dream of a revolution to fruition over there.

·       Some of Savarkar’s poems were banned by the Government, but he was not considered a serious threat to the Raj at this time

-  Anurupa

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 2: The Beginning . . .

Savarkar took his oath before this Ashtabhuja Devi idol
·        Burning with patriotism as he was, the hanging of patriot Damodarpant Chapekar on April 4, 1898, triggered Savakar to take an oath before the idol of Ashtabhuja Goddess to fight until death and organize an armed revolution for the freedom of his beloved Hindustan.

·        In September of 1899, Savarkar’s father and uncle succumbed to the plague. Both his brothers, Ganesh (Babarao) and Narayanrao (Bal,) were seriously affected by plague, too. Fortunately, both of them recovered.

·        Despite these troubles and the fact that a recent robbery had left them destitute, the young family plunged whole-heartedly into the freedom struggle.

·        In Nasik in 1900, Savarkar formed a secret society, Rashtrabhaktasamuha, for armed revolt and Mitra Mela for conducting open activities to fan patriotism in the hearts of the people by changing ceremonies and festivals into political and national functions. Mitra Mela also carried out social work.

·        Savarkar was married to Yamuna Chiplunkar in 1901. His father-in-law had promised to fund his university education.

 Savarkar and his Mitra Mela friends 
-   Anurupa

Monday, April 1, 2013

Biography of Savarkar, Post 1: Childhood

Savarkar in 1901
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born on May 28, 1883, at 10 p.m. at Bhagur, a village near Nasik, India. Characteristics that epitomized him were his from the earliest childhood:

·        bold and daring with a magnetic personality and progressive ideas far, far beyond the times

·        voracious reader with a profound knowledge and grasp of worldwide history (even ancient history of Babylonia)

·        born poet and orator (talents which he consciously honed)

·        detested the birth-based caste system, socialized with friends from lower classes and enjoyed hospitality at each other’s homes

·        filled with national pride for his country and heritage and a burning desire to restore honor to his beloved country (even wrote a much-acclaimed article Glory of Hindustan in his junior high-school year and organized a protest against Muslim riots at nine years of age.)

-      Anurupa