On 28 May, 2023 Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate the new Parliament building to the nation.
The event would coincide with the 140th birth anniversary of Veer Savarkar. It is not difficult to image the usual suspects ask if it would be fitting to have the new Parliament building dedicated to the nation on that day.
What are the defining values of the modern Indian State in continuity with the ancient Indian Nation?
Do Savarkar and his image cater to these values?
Was Savarkar a secularist?
Was Savarkar a democrat who could tolerate and even accept differences?
Is Savarkar's patriotism non-parochial and does it contain in it a vision of all humanity living in peace with no nation or people dominating others?
Did he contribute substantially to the integral and essential components of the State which help India to survive and live as a nation?
If the answer is 'yes' to each of these questions, then honouring Savarkar is not only justified but in fact, must be encouraged and supported.
Here it should be pointed out that Savarkar was one of the earliest political thinkers to have a vision of a secular democratic Indian State.
In 1937, from the platform of the 19th session of the All India Hindu Mahasabha held at Ahmedabad, Savarkar in his presidential address stated:
Let the Indian State be purely Indian. Let it not recognise any invidious distinctions whatsoever as regards the franchise, public services, offices, taxation on the grounds of religion and race. Let no cognizance be taken whatsoever of man's being Hindu or Mohammedan, Christian or Jew. Let all citizens of that Indian State be treated according to their individual worth irrespective of their religious or racial percentage in the general population. Let that language and script be the national language and script of that Indian states which are understood by the overwhelming majority of the people as happens in every other state in the world, ... and let no religious bias be allowed to tamper with that language and script with an enforced and perverse hybridism whatsoever. Let 'one man one vote' be the general rule irrespective of caste or creed, race or religion.
Each word here is pregnant with meaning.
Such an Indian State, he said should be acceptable to Hindu Sangathanists because such a state would be in the interest of Hindu Sangathan itself.
At a time when the world was caught in the firestorm of anti-Semitism, Savarkar talked about equal citizenship rights of Indian Jews. He was a secular democrat at heart just as he was a civilizational visionary of Hinduness. In fact, both these dimensions complimented each other.
Even in his career as the President of All India Hindu Mahasabha we see that the presidents of Provincial Hindu Mahasabha branches could differ vastly from the views of Veer Savarkar. He never superimposed his views either through his power of presidential dictates or through emotional blackmails like hunger strikes. If anything, he was a democrat to a fault.
A good example is the kind of ideological and personal relationship he had with Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee.
They had differed on a few important issues. While expressing his differences with Mookerjee, Savarkar never attacked him but when he found that it was the view point of the former that was carrying the day, he calmly resigned without bitterness.
Similarly even across the political spectrum, Savarkar appealed for the release of the arrested Congress leaders.
Sarat Bose was against Savarkar ideologically. But Savarkar strongly demanded his release. He could see a patriotic heart beyond the outer covers of ideology.
One of the earlier colleagues of Savarkar was Virendranath Chattopadyaya. He was also the brother of famous Congress poet-politician Sarojini Naidu.
Later, he became involved with the Soviets in his efforts to liberate India. It was said that he had become a Marxist himself. He was surely very closely associated with left radical circles of the West.
When in Soviet Union, he was arrested by Stalin during the Stalinist Purge. The only prominent political voice from India asking for his release, requesting the Congress politicians then in power in the interim Government, was that of Savarkar. Even Nehru was nowhere near as vocal on the issue.
Savarkar had a clear vision of differentiating between the Nation and the State. He accepted the National tricolour with Dharma Chakra in the middle. He hoisted it on the roof top of his house on 15 August, 1947, along with the Hindu Sangathan flag.
He had explained in detail about the holistic and historical significance of the Hindu Sangathan flag which represented the civilisational and spiritual essence of India. But that did not prevent him from giving the respect due to the National flag of the Indian State.
He was also a great humanist. To him, in tune with the ancient Hindu vision, the whole world was one family.
The final aim of every politician, according to Savarkar, should be a 'World Commonwealth.' In 1944 he sent a message to World Fellowship Conference at Conway, which he was asked to preside:
The Earth is our real Motherland, man¬kind our Nation and a Human Government based on equality of rights and duties is or ought to be our ultimate political goal.
But he did not want India to make itself a scapegoat of aggressors and invaders in the name of romantic and meaningless pacifism:
... before you make out a case for unity, you must make out a case for survival as a national or a social human unit
It was this understanding that made Savarkar go on a national tour covering the length and breadth of India, relentlessly campaigning for the militarization drive during the Second World War.
For decades he and his colleague Moonje had advocated universal military recruitment from the Indian masses.
Had there not been a whirlwind campaign of Savarkar for military recruitment, the Indian armed forces would have been dominated by British officers at the top, and by Islamist officers and predominantly Islamist soldiers in the middle and at the bottom.
In such a situation, along with Partition, India would have been in an unenviable condition with its borders being determined by the will of a better and superior armed forces of Pakistan and a pro-Pakistani British High Command.
When Savarkar asked Indian youths to utilise the Second World War and get recruited, he was ridiculed and insulted by a section of Congress men calling him a ‘recruitment agent’ and worse, calling those joining the army as ‘rice soldiers’.
But it was this army that came to be dominated by Hindus and Sikhs which ultimately became the national army of India at the hour of independence.
If we had a stronger indigenous army, which felt itself primarily Indian, which safeguarded our borders during the important conflicts that came in the wake of partition, then it is because of the far-reaching vision of Savarkar.
A cold, rational analysis may even conclude that the militarisation of Savarkar saved more Indian lives compared than the Ahimsa of Gandhi.
The Ahimsa of Gandhi was without doubt a civilisational achievement. But it has its time and place. It cannot be imposed universally. Nor is the militarisation of Savarkar universal. But whether it is Savarkar or Gandhi, they both agreed upon the national unity of India as well as the nature of the Indian nation which, to both, was undoubtedly Hindu.
Just as the Ahimsa of Gandhi flows from his Hinduness, similarly the militarisation strategy of Savarkar flows from his Hinduness. Savarkar and Gandhi represent the Yin and Yang of political Hindutva.
So, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicates the new Parliament House to the nation on the 140th birth anniversary of Swatantra Veer Vinayaka Damodara Savarkar, that shall be an act of Harmony which is very much needed for the soul of India.
Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.
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