The Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu said today that Veer Savarkar was a multidimensional personality – a freedom fighter, social reformer, writer, poet, historian, political leader and philosopher – all combined into one.
Releasing the book – ‘Savarkar: Echoes from a Forgotten Past’, in New Delhi today, the he opined that there are many facets of Veer Savarkar’s personality that remain under appreciated.
“Very few in India know that Veer Savarkar started one of the most powerful social reform movements against untouchability in India”, Shri Naidu said adding that Savarkar built Patit Pavan Mandir in the Ratnagiri district to allow entry to all Hindus, including Dalits. “He was the first to envision a casteless India”, the Vice President said.
Highlighting that it was Veer Savarkar who named the 1857 rebellion as the first war of independence, Shri Naidu called for the right sense of history that is reflective of Indian values.
The Vice President also listed what Veer Savarkar called as Seven Shackles of the society. Enumerating these shackles, VP said that Veer Savarkar condemned these “seven swadeshi fetters” as they were dividing society. The seven Shackles described by Savarkar are –
First, the rigid caste system which, according to Savarkar, “deserves to be thrown into the dustbins of history”.
The second reform Veer Savarkar wanted was to popularize Vedic literature to everyone, not only to a particular caste. He called Vedic literature civilizational knowledge for the entire human race and India’s unique gift to mankind.
The third was to break away from caste-based vocational rigidity and encourage persons to pursue any vocation of their choice based on aptitude and ability. In the absence of motivation of competition, or lack of aptitude, Savarkar believed, “merely following what one’s father did, will make one both complacent and unproductive.”
Fourth, Savarkar believed in global mobility and the need for Indians to venture out into foreign lands so as to “bring back the best of the world and carry the fragrance of India and her culture to every corner of the globe.”
Fifth, Savarkar wanted to break away from the taboo on inter-caste dining. He had said, “Religion is in the heart, the soul, the spirit; not the stomach!”
The sixth was promotion of inter-caste marriage
The seventh aspect, Veer Savarkar underscored was the need to develop a scientific temper. “We are 200 years behind Europe”, he had remarked adding, “It is through science, modern thoughts and industrialization that we can ensure that every man woman in India will have a job to do, food to eat, clothes to wear and a happy life to lead.”
The Vice President called Savarkar’s far-sighted vision of India’s future development as ‘truly remarkable’. Recounting the innumerable sufferings faced by Indian freedom fighters, he appealed to everyone to visit the Cellular Jail at least once in their lifetime.
Noting that it is not easy to write a biography, sepecially of a person as illustrious and as controversial as Savarkar, the Vice President complimented the author, Dr. Vikram Sampath for a very well researched and extremely well written account of Savarkar’s life and message.
“The book by Dr Sampath brings out these remarkable visionary ideas of Savarkar in a very compelling manner. After we put down the book, we see Savarkar in a new light”, he said.
Author of the book, Dr. Vikram Sampath, Rajya Sabha Member, Dr. Sonal Mansingh, Secretary General, Rajya Sabha, Shri Desh Deepak Verma, Secretary to Vice President, Dr. I.V. Subbarao, Chairman, Prasar Bharati, Dr. A. Suryaprakash, Shri Meghnath Desai, Shri Sanjeev Sanyal, Shri Ranjeet Savarkar were among the dignitaries who grace the occasion.
Following is the full text of the speech –
“It is a matter of great pleasure for me to launch this book on eminent freedom fighter, revolutionary and political ideologue, Swatantrya Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar today.
I must compliment the author, Dr Vikram Sampath for a very well researched, extremely well written account of Savarkar’s life and message.
It is not easy to write a biography. Especially of a person as illustrious and as controversial as Savarkar. It is easy to swerve into a judgemental path, either being unduly critical or eulogistically effusive.
Dr Sampath maintains a fine balance and gives the reader a vivid glimpse of the historical context in which Savarkar emerged and left his unique imprint on the nation’s struggle for independence.
It is an engaging tale that grips the attention of the reader right from the first page till the end.
It is a chronicle of events, people, ideas and convictions narrated with an authenticity that makes us “live through” the past.
It is a biography not a hagiography.
Dear sisters and brothers,
Veer Savarkar was a multidimensional personality – a freedom fighter, social reformer, writer, poet, historian, political leader and philosopher – all combined into one.
The story of Veer Savarkar as it unfolds in this book, reveals the staunch patriotic vision of this bold and determined son of Mother India who named the 1857 rebellion as the first war of independence and chose armed resistance as the modus operandi for achieving independence.
Veer Savarkar’s courage and commitmentto his cause is evident from the fact that he tried to escape to France by jumping off a British Ship near French coast in 1910. Savarkar provided leadership to several other young bravehearts in London and across Europe to garner support for India’s freedom.
The book contains riveting accounts of his exemplary role and innumerable sacrifices for the cause of country’s freedom. We also learn about the stellar role of his associates as well. The glorious chapter of India’s freedom struggle is recounted with the touch of an imaginative novelist and the penchant for accurate detailing of a studious historian.
The role of stellar heroes and heroines such as Madame BhikajiCama, Shyamaji Krishna Varma, Madan LalDhingra, LalaHarDayal, Bhai Paramanand, V.V.S. Aiyar comes alive in these pages.
Sisters and brothers,
I find that the book brings out many facets of Savarkar’s life and places his actions and thoughts in the historical context.
This helps us to get a clear understanding of the real import of Savarkar’s speeches and the vision he had elaborated at great length in his writings.
As Meghnad Desai, eminent author and columnist and Professor Emeritus, London School of Economics has commented, “Savarkar has long been a subject of abuse and adulation, both based on an incomplete understanding of his life and ides. Vikram Sampath has written the finest biography. He has researched his subject in incredible depth and breadth, tracked down documents and memories long forgotten. This will restore the right balance to the story of one of the revolutionaries of modern India.”
Sisters and brothers,
Veer Savarkar was no ordinary man. He was a visionary social reformer, a forward-looking liberal, an iconoclast in many ways and an eminently practical strategist who wanted to free India from the colonial rule, if necessary, by violent armed resistance.
Recognizing the lack of unity as the underlying cause of colonial subjugation, Savarkar’s emphasis has been on a quest for India’s unity and search for the unique Indian identity. As the author mentions in the book, “ Right from his childhood, Vinayak had bemoaned the lack of unity and organisation in Hindu society, ridden as it was with innumerable caste differences and other complexities. Finding an answer to ‘Who is a Hindu?’ seemed germane to him at this point of time.” Pursuing this question, he came up with a postulate that the story of “the civilization of a nation is the story of its thoughts, its actions, and its achievements. Literature and art tell us of its thoughts; history and social institutions of its actions and achievements. The commonality of our shared history and inherited works of art and architecture binds us all as a nation.”
What he is talking about is a shared cultural identity of a people, who were called Hindus simply because they were inhabiting a certain geographical space between the Sindhu river and the Indian Ocean. Their shared heritage is what he called “Hindutva” or being a Hindu.
The author brings out in great detail the historical context and the reason why Savarkar’s efforts to define Hindutva assume significance in the fight to unitedly take on the British might.
Sisters and brothers,
There are many facets of Veer Savarkar’s personality that remain under appreciated.
Very few in India know that Veer Savarkar started one of the most powerful social reform movements against untouchability in India. He built PatitPavanMandir in the Ratnagiri district to allow entry to all Hindus, including Dalits.
Criticizing the caste system, Veer Savarkar said –
“To achieve social revolution we first have to strike at the birth-based caste system and bridge the differences between the various castes”
His feeling against caste based discrimination are best described in the letter he wrote to his brother Narayan Rao in 1920. Savarkar wrote –
“I feel the need to rebel against caste discrimination and untouchability as much as I feel the need to fight against foreign occupation of India.”
He was the first to envision a casteless India.
The author has very thoughtfully added a chapter on important thoughts of Veer Savarkar. It is quite revealing to read about Veer Savarkar’s reformist ideas and his iconoclastic observations.
Veer Savarkar decried what he called “seven swadeshi fetters”. Let me a cite a few of them. Please note that what Savarkar was condemning were societal factors that were dividing society. He wanted unity and freedom from societal ills. He wanted inclusive development.
“One of the most important components of such injunctions of the past that we have blindly carried on and which deserves to be thrown in the dustbins of history”, according to Savarkar, “ is the rigid caste system”.
The second reform he wanted was to popularize Vedic literature and make it available to everyone not only to a particular caste. He had remarked, “Vedic literature is civilizational knowledge for the entire human race and India’s unique gift to mankind. Active propagation of its learning and internalization among all communities not only within but also outside India must be encouraged without delay.”
The third was to break away from caste-based vocational rigidity and encourage persons to pursue any vocation of their choice based on aptitude and ability. In his view, “Without the motivation of challenge and competition, or lack of aptitude, and merely following what one’s father or his father did make one both complacent and unproductive.”
Fourth, Savarkar believed in global mobility and the need for Indians to venture out into foreign lands. He had said, “Young Indians must be encouraged to cross the seas with no fear of losing caste and bring back to us the best of the world and carry the fragrance of India and her culture to every corner of the globe.”
Fifth, he wanted to break away from the taboo on inter-caste dining. In his view, “Eating and drinking with another human being can, by no stretch of imagination, ruin something as esoteric as one’s religion. Religion is in the heart, the soul, the spirit; not the stomach!”
The sixth was “The intemperate practice of abolishing inter-caste marriage” which as per Savarkar, “ has caused our Hindu society a lot of harm.”
The seventh aspect he underscored was the willingness to develop a scientific temper.His far-sighted vision of India’s future development is truly remarkable. He had remarked, ‘The era that our country is now entering is the one that Europe had entered two centuries ago. This means we are 200 years behind Europe. This scientific temper is the foundation and cornerstone of the machine age and modernization, which will lead to prosperity for India. It is through science, modern thoughts and industrialization that we can ensure that every man woman in India will have a job to do, food to eat, clothes to wear and a happy life to lead.”
The book by Dr Sampath brings out these remarkable visionary ideas of Savarkar in a very compelling manner. After we put down the book, we see Savarkar in a new light. As Savarkar himself describes his mission, “A true social or religious reformer should only be driven by the desire to do good for the larger society.” He had the unity, integrity and the development of our country as the only objective in life. He makes this amply clear in his statement that, “As far as I am concerned, so that I am not torn about the choice between popularity and public good, I have this stamped on my mind: Varamjanahitamdhyeyamkevalam na janastuti (It is better to think only of the welfare of people, not receive adulations from them).
The following words of Veer Savarkar sum up his unwavering commitment to the cause he passionately believed in.
“I have given you the stores of all our martyrs and I have advised all along to hold firm by our creed of violent resistance if circumstances were to force it upon us. I have kept the flag flying. When I heard the sentence passed upon me fourteen years ago, the words dancing upon my lips were the same that are dancing upon them today. I uttered them then, I have uttered them during my long stay in prison, and they come forth from my mouth today, to be carved on your heart and mind, and to ring in your ears for good. Let us say all of us- Glory to the Goddess of Freedom; Victory to our Mother.”
It is truly a remarkable book about a versatile genius.
I once again heartily compliment Dr Vikram Sampath for producing this excellent biography and hope that he will continue to produce similar biographies that will illuminate different aspects of great men and women who have left a lasting legacy.