“Oh, Motherland! Sacrifice for you is life, and living without you is death.”
The person who said these words was the same one who, when sentenced to 50 years of imprisonment, boldly questioned whether British rule would last that long in India. He is the same person who wrote poems in Kala Pani, the most dreaded prison at that time.
These poems were not written on paper. They were etched on the walls of his cell with his fingers. He also went through the most inhuman torture possible, so barbaric it’s hard to even imagine. His writings inspired many to join the freedom struggle. He is famously known as Swatantraveer.
Yes, the man was none other than Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.
Veer Savarkar, as he is commonly referred to, was one of India’s bravest freedom fighters. He joined the freedom struggle at the young age of 16 when he founded the Mitra Mela, a group of friends who did their best to contribute to a struggle which had just gained massive importance. They would organise revolutionary activities, inspired by radical poets like Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal.
Savarkar also participated in the Swadeshi movement which was organised by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, where he led a student union. He was also greatly inspired by the great Maratha king and warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Savarkar was also a prominent member of the Hindu Mahasabha and was against the Gandhian policy of non-violence. But he worked with people irrespective of ideology, understanding that they fought towards a common goal, independence. This is proved by how he worked closely with Bhagat Singh, an Indian revolutionary, who even translated his book - Hindu Padapaadashashi, which was originally in Marathi to English. Savarkar also named the Revolt of 1857 the ‘first war of independence’, thus increasing its significance from a mere uprising.
Savarkar was imprisoned in the Kala Pani, and the torture he faced was beyond human imagination. He was chained to the walls with his hands and legs in handcuffs, unable to move at all, for days on end, and spent over a fortnight in a seclusion cell, the worst kind of mental torture. It was after all this that he wrote a mercy petition.
And it should be remembered that a mercy petition was a very common way of getting out of prison for a political prisoner during British rule. And Savarkar, being a barrister by profession, chose to utilise all the available legal options. He was not the only one to write such petitions, in fact, a similar mercy petition was written by Mr Motilal Nehru to get his son Jawaharlal Nehru out of prison. Savarkar also felt that the best way he could continue contributing towards the freedom struggle was only if he was released from prison.
But it is this one simple act of his which is today used as a means to insult him and his sacrifice.
The freedom struggle demanded sacrifice and countless freedom fighters did sacrifice a lot.
It is shocking how someone of Savarkar’s stature could be termed a traitor and a British stooge. The problem with politics today is that politicians and journalists are willing to stoop to any level to push forth a certain agenda. Even at the cost of insulting someone who sacrificed so much for our freedom.
It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with his ideology, that’s not the point of this article. If there is one thing that we can learn from Savarkar and a lot of other revolutionaries, it is that difference of opinion must not become more important than the interest of the nation.
How can anyone who faced such torture and sacrificed and contributed so much to the freedom struggle, be termed by future generations, who rest under the freedom he fought to provide, as a traitor?
It is up to us, as citizens, to decide whether we support the people who fought for our freedom, or those who criticize them merely to stay relevant in politics and for the sake of a few votes. The people who criticize and demean his contributions are the very same people who have done nothing useful for the country and would not be willing to do even an ounce of what Savarkar did.
What ideology you belong to doesn’t matter. There are certain things which are way more important. Respecting our national heroes is one of them. If we ourselves don’t give them the respect they deserve, who will? If the very people they sacrificed so much for question their patriotism, doesn’t it mean that we are a thankless nation and their sacrifice is in vain?
His words prove yet again what a great patriot he was - “It is better to be in the last line of patriots than the first row of traitors.”