Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, sometimes called Veer Savarkar or Vir Savarkar was an Indian freedom fighter and a Hindu nationalist leader. Vinayak Savarkar was a great orator, prolific writer, historian, poet, philosopher and social worker who devoted his entire life to the cause of the Indian Independence movement. He is regarded by some as one of the greatest revolutionaries in the Indian freedom struggle, while others consider him a communalist and Machiavellian manipulator. He was also one of the most controversial figures of the independence movement. Being a descendant of a line of Sanskrit scholars, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar took great interest in History, Politics, Literature and Indian culture. His book, ‘First war of Indian Independence Movement’: 1857, served as an inspiration for many freedom fighters. Born in the village of Bhagur near Nasik, he was one among four children born to Damodarpant Savarkar and Radhabai. His initial education was at the Shivaji School, Nasik. He lost his mother at the age of nine. Brought up by his father, he was influenced by the freedom struggle in British India and got drawn towards it. He lost his father during the plague that struck India in 1899. In March 1901, he married Yamunabai. Post marriage, in 1902, he joined Fergusson College in Pune to study further. In June 1906, he received a scholarship and left for London to study law. As a student, Savarkar was involved in the Swadeshi movement. He later joined Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s Swaraj Party. When in London, he founded the Free India Society. The Society celebrated important dates on the Indian calendar including festivals, freedom movement landmarks, and was dedicated to furthering discussion about Indian freedom which came to be highly unacceptable to the British. He is reported to have quoted, “We must stop complaining about this British officer or that officer, this law or that law.
There would be no end to that. Our movement must not be limited to being against any particular law, but it must be for acquiring the authority to make the laws itself. In other words, we want Absolute Political Independence.” In 1908, when he wrote “The Indian War of Independence 1857”, the British government immediately enforced a ban on the publication in both Britain and India. Later, it was published by Madame Bhikaiji Cama in Holland, and was smuggled into India to reach revolutionaries working across the country against British rule. In 1909, Madanlal Dhingra, a keen follower of Savarkar shot Sir Wyllie after a failed assassination attempt on the then Viceroy, Lord Curzon. In the political crisis that ensued, Savarkar stood out with a decision not to condemn the act. When the then British Collector of Nasik, A.M.T. Jackson was shot by a youth, Savarkar finally fell under the net of the British authorities. He was implicated in the murder citing his connections with India House. A warrant was issued on 13th March, 1910, following which he was arrested in Paris. He hatched a plan to escape at Marseilles which failed. He was captured and brought to Bombay (Mumbai) on the S.S. Morea, and imprisoned at the Yervada Prison. He was tried, and at the age of 27 years, sentenced to 50 years imprisonment at the infamous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. On 4th July, 1911, he was transported to the Andamans. He appealed for clemency in 1911, and again in 1913, during Sir Reginald Craddock’s visit. In 1920, many prominent freedom fighters including Vithalbhai Patel, Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak demanded the release of Savarkar and his brother in the Central Legislative Assembly. On May 2, 1921, Savarkar was moved to Ratnagiri jail, and from there to the Yeravada jail. It was in Ratnagiri jail that Savarkar wrote the book ‘Hindutva’. In January 6, 1924 he was released under conditions of stringent restrictions imposed on his travel and activities. Savarkar, though an atheist himself, reluctantly accepted the presidency of the Hindu Mahasabha, and was its president for seven consecutive years. During this time, he contributed significantly to its evolution as a separate political party. The Hindu Mahasabha, under Savarkar’s presidency, did not support the Quit India movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in August 1942. The Communist Party of India and the Muslim League were the other political parties which did not support the Quit India Movement. His view of post-independence India envisioned a militarily strong, cohesive and self-sufficient nation.
His literary works in Marathi include “Kamala”, “Mazi Janmathep” (My Life Sentence), and most famously “1857 – The First war of Independence”. Another noted book was “Kala Pani” (similar to Life Sentence, but on the island prison on the Andamans), which reflected the treatment of Indian freedom fighters by the British. He wrote several books when in prison. Among those that he wrote when in Ratnagiri jail, was the profoundly influential book ‘Hindutva’, which deals with the Hindu nationalistic approach to the idea of the Indian nation and Hinduism. Other books written by him include “Hindu Padpadashahi” and “My Transportation for Life”. At the same time, religious divisions in India were beginning to fissure. He described what he saw as the atrocities of British and Muslims on Hindu residents in Kerala, in the book, “Mopalyanche Band” (Muslims’ Strike) and also “Gandhi Gondhal” (Gandhi’s Nonsense), a political critique of Gandhi’s politics. Savarkar, by now, had become a committed and persuasive critic of the Gandhian vision of India’s future. He is also the author of poems like “Sagara pran talmalala”, and “Jayostute” (written in praise of freedom), claimed to be one of the most moving, inspiring and patriotic works in Marathi literature by his followers and some critics.