Veer Savarkar (May 28, 1883 – Forever)

Veer Savarkar’s original name was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. He was born on May 28, 1883 in the village of Bhagur near Nasik. He was one among four children born to Damodarpant Savarkar and Radhabai. Veer Savarkar had his initial education at the Shivaji School, Nasik. He lost his mother when he was only nine. He organized a gang of kids, Vanarsena when he was just eleven.

During his high school days, Veer Savarkar used to organize Shivaji Utsav and Ganesh Utsav, started by Bal Gangadhar Tilak (whom Savarkar considered as his Guru) and used these occasions to put up plays on nationalistic themes. Savarkar lost his father during the plague of 1899. In March 1901, he married Yamunabai. Post marriage, in 1902, Veer Savarkar joined Fergusson College in Pune.

In Pune, Savarkar founded the “Abhinav Bharat Society”. He was also involved in the Swadeshi movement and later joined Tilak’s Swaraj Party. His instigating patriotic speeches and activities incensed the British Government. As a result the British Government withdrew his B.A. degree.

Savarkar very soon dominated campus life. He, along with a group of students began dressing alike and using swadeshi goods only. He renamed the “Mitra Mela” as “Abhinav Bharat” and declared that “India must be independent; India must be united; India must be a republic; India must have a common language and common script.

In June 1906, Veer Savarkar, left for London to become Barrister.He founded the Free India Society which held weekly meetings and celebrated Indian festivals and anniversaries of important figures and days in the Indian freedom struggle. He created a network of Indians in England, equipped with weapons.

In 1909, Madanlal Dhingra, a keen follower of Savarkar shot Sir Wyllie after a failed assassination attempt on the then Viceroy, Lord Curzon. Savarkar conspicuously did not condemn the act. When the then British Collector of Nasik, A.M.T. Jackson was shot by a youth, Veer Savarkar finally fell under the net of the British authorities. He was implicated in the murder citing his connections with India House. Savarkar was arrested in London on March 13, 1910 and sent to India.

After a formal trial, Savarkar was charged with serious offences of illegal transportation of weapons, provocative speeches and sedition and was sentenced to 50 years’ of jail and deported to the Kalapani (Blackwaters) at Andaman cellular jail. In his last letters to a close friend, he conveyed his plan to attempt to escape from custody at Marseilles. His friend was to be waiting there with a car. The escape attempt at Marseilles failed as car arrived too late.

Savarkar arrived at the Andamans prison on July 4, 1911. Life for the prisoners was very harsh. Savarkar’s day began at 5 a.m. chopping trees with a heavy wooden mallet and then he would be yoked to the oil mill. If prisoners talked or broke queue at mealtime, their once a year letter writing privilege was revoked. Savarkar withdrew within himself, quietly and mechanically doing the tasks presented to him. He was successful in getting permission to start a jail library. With great effort and patience he taught the illiterate convicts to read and write. In 1920, many prominent freedom fighters including Vithalbhai Patel, Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak demanded the release of Savarkar. On May 2, 1921, Savarkar was moved to Ratnagiri jail, and from there to the Yeravada jail. In Ratnagiri jail Savarkar wrote the book ‘Hindutva’.

Savarkar founded the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha on January 23, 1924 which aimed to preserve India’s ancient culture and work for social welfare. Through the Sabha, Savarkar worked hard to protect minority rights. During the celebration of Hindu festivals, Savarkar visited Muslim and Christian homes to promote good will. He encouraged intercaste marriage

Savarkar joined Tilak’s Swaraj Party and founded the Hindu Mahasabha as a separate political party. He was elected President of the Mahasabha and toiled for building Hindu Nationalism and later joined the Quit India movement.

Savarkar agreed to join hands with the Congress in support of Gandhiji’s Quit India movement as long as the Congress did not compromise the unity of the nation to the Muslim League. “The Quit India Movement must not end in a Split India Movement!” he thundered on a BBC broadcast of his speech. Veer Savarkar died on February 26, 1966 at the age of 83.

A collection by Upendra kumar.

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