The Marxists often ridicule revolutionary freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, calling him “Shoe-varkar” for allegedly seeking his release from the Cellular Jail by tendering an apology to the British. Taking a cue from the recent Marxist critique on Savarkar, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his advisor Shashi Tharoor have also started parroting the same narrative to achieve their larger political agenda of targeting BJP and its ideological fountainhead, the RSS.
The Leftist antipathy towards Savarkar doesn’t have much antiquity. The vilification started as a political response after the BJP decided to shelve ‘Gandhian Socialism’ and embrace a more strident Hindutva as its ideological core. Other political parties sensed a threat as Hindu consolidation would spell trouble for their ‘divide and rule’ politics. Prior to that, the Communists never had any misgivings about Hindutva or Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha, for that matter.
The Left historians often tend to ignore the fact that the Communists had openly tied up with the Hindu Mahasabha in Bengal. The author of a book on Gandhiji Assassination, Shabu Prasad, in an article published in the Indus Scrolls, writes, “Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, the then chief of Hindu Mahasabha, lost the elections in 1957 but returned to the House as an independent member supported by the undivided Communist Party, CPI, through a by-election in 1963. By 1967 general elections, the Communist Party had split as CPI and CPI(M) and Chatterjee was elected to the Lok Sabha with the CPI(M) support. He retired from active politics in 1971 due to health issues but ensured his son Somnath Chatterjee got a CPI(M) ticket.”
Communist stalwarts of yesteryears such as EMS Namboodiripad, MN Roy, Hirendranath Mukherjee and Shripad Amrit Dange used to hold Savarkar in high esteem. In his book titled A History of Indian Freedom Struggle (1986), EMS praises Savarkar’s revolutionary zeal in no uncertain terms when he states: “Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the leader of movement, subsequently shifted his activities to England and tried to start revolution in India with whatever help he could get there. This group (Abhinav Bharat) with branches all over Maharashtra, played a prominent role in developing a revolutionary movement not merely in Maharashtra but also all over India. Savarkar was arrested in England. While he was being brought to India with police escort, he tried to escape but was again caught by the police. The incident had become a legend.”
Left historians always blame Jinnah and Savarkar for Partition of India. It is unfair to bring in Savarkar’s name, as he was not in favour of Partition. This Jinnah-Savarkar binary is being foisted to hide the roles of Nehru and Communists. EMS in the above-mentioned book says that the party’s policies had helped Jinnah’s demand for a separate country.
Left historians often project Savarkar as an ‘obscurantist Hindu bigot’, which is far removed from truth. Savarkar was many things rolled into one: He was a revolutionary, political thinker, social reformer, linguist historian, modernist and an author. He is said to have coined the word ‘sansad’ for Parliament and ‘doordarshan’ for television. He was a rationalist and criticized evil practices in Hinduism such as untouchability and outmoded rituals. Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer, the legendary Dewan of Travancore state, was a great admirer of Savarkar and helped him set up a branch of the Hindu Mahasabha in Thiruvananthapuram. Savarkar extended his wholehearted support to Travancore’s Temple Entry Proclamation of 1936, which was characterized as the ‘Spiritual fall of the Bastille’ by Louise Ouwerkerk (No Elephants for the Maharaja). Scholars like Janaki Bakhle of the University of California, Berkeley believe that Savarkar’s influence in modern India rivals that of Gandhi ji. (The controversial legacy of Vinayak Savarkar, Livemint) Siegfried O. Wolf of Heidelberg University has pointed out that Savarkar believed in a democratic and secular state where every individual has the same rights irrespective of caste, creed, race or religion, as he mentioned in his several presidential speeches at the Hindu Mahasabha.
- A History of Indian Freedom Struggle: EMS Namboodiripad
- Communalism and Indian Princely States: Dick Kooiman
- No Elephants for the Maharaja: Louise Ouwerkerk
- Indus Scrolls