Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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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!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Picking Oakum

This short story is fictionalized from the anecdote of Narayan Damle from the book Mi Pahilele Savarkar (The Savarkar I Saw,) Veer Gaurav Samiti, Pune; page 91. This incident takes place in 1924-25 or so.

Savarkar's Room in the Damle Home
The sounds of chattering voices and a banging of coconut on the husker filled the peace of the evening. The men-folk of the Damle household and their four male servants were making a new coir rope for the pulley of the well. The servants were extracting the husk; Vishnupant, head of the household, was rolling it; and the boys were plaiting it into a rope.
“Shhh!” admonished Vishupant, “make less noise! Bhiku, don’t bang the coconut so noisily.”
“But, Vishnupant, it is a noisy job, so how . . . ?” said Bhiku, the servant, a little helplessly.
“I don’t know, Bhiku, we must try at any rate,” replied Vishnupant. “Tatya’s room is just around the corner. We don’t want to disturb him, surely?”
“Yes, yes, that’s true.”
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, an intrepid, charismatic freedom fighter of India, had just been released from fourteen horrendous years of hard labor in jail and as a condition of that release, confined to the Ratnagiri District. He was the house-guest of the Damle family in Shirgaon at this time. In the evenings it was his practice to write in the quiet of his room.
“Baba,” said Moreshwar, Vishnupant’s oldest son, “he is such a great personality, so-o-o-o learned.”
“Baba,” piped in Narayan, the youngest, his eyes opened wide in wonder, “and he is a barrister, too!” He said the word with great awe. “Remember, Barrister Jinnah? He charged us `500 just for ten-minutes of representation in court. But boy was he effective! These barristers are so special!”
“Yes, Tatya is certainly that!” said Vishnupant, admiringly. “And he has suffered a lot—unimaginable horrors—in the jails.” He shook his head. “We must ensure he has peace he—” Vishnupant stopped mid-sentence.
“Tatya!” he exclaimed.
Savarkar was in their midst.
“Tatya!” cried Vishnupant again, making as if to get up. “I hope we didn’t disturb you.”
“Oh, don’t get up, Vishnupant,” said Savarkar with a smile. “Do carry on with your work. I just felt like some company.”
“We-e-e-ll, if you say so, Tatya,” Vishnupant replied and started rolling the coir again, though a little consciously.
Everyone, having stopped short at Savarkar’s entry, now resumed their work. But no one chattered! They were in awe of Savarkar.
Savarkar watched interestedly as they worked. “Arre, Vishnupant!” he exclaimed “How slowly you are rolling the coir!”
“Tatya, it is not an easy job, you know,” Vishnupant was quick to reply. “It takes considerable skill!”
“Oh, is that so? Well then, watch me!” With that Savarkar quickly squatted next to Vishnupant and swiftly and expertly rolled out a long string of coir.

Everyone gaped.
“This is what we did in the jails, y’know—picking oakum,” Savarkar explained matter of factly.
Good heavens, a scholar and a barrister willingly doing this humble hard labor—and that with such skill. Amazing! Their admiration and respect for Savarkar increased tenfold. Here was a great man, indeed!