Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924
As the intellectual fountainhead of the ideology of Hindutva, which is in the political ascendant in India today, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is undoubtedly one of the most contentious political thinkers and leaders of the 20th Century. Accounts of his eventful and stormy life have oscillated from eulogizing hagiographies to disparaging demonization. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between and has unfortunately never been brought to light. Savarkar and his ideology stood as one of the tallest and most virulent opponents of Gandhi, his pacifist philosophy and the Indian National Congress.
Savarkar, an alleged atheist and a staunch rationalist who strongly opposed orthodox Hindu beliefs and dismissed cow worship as mere superstition was, arguably, the most vocal political voice for the Hindu community through the entire course of the Indian freedom struggle. From the heady days of revolution and generating international support for the cause of India's freedom as a law student in London, Savarkar found himself arrested, unfairly tried for sedition, transported and incarcerated at the Cellular Jail, in the Andamans for over a decade, where he underwent heart wrenching tortures.
From being an optimistic advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity in his treatise on the 1857 War of Independence, what transformed him in the Cellular Jail to become the author of 'Hindutva', which viewed Muslims with suspicion? Were these reactions to the growing Muslim separatism and the ideology of Jinnah and the Muslim League? Were his mercy-petitions to the British, seeking release from the Andamans, a tactical ploy or an abject surrender? Was the Hindu Mahasabha that he headed alone in its opposition to Gandhian movements such as Quit India? What were the points of divergence between him and the R.S.S on matters of Hindutva?
Drawing from a vast range of original archival documents across India and abroad, this biographical series puts Savarkar, his life and philosophy in a new perspective and looks at the man with all his achievements and failings.
VIKRAM SAMPATH is a historian and political commentator and the author of Splendours of Royal Mysore: The Untold Story of the Wodeyars; My Name Is Gauhar Jaan:
The Life and Times of a Musician and Voice of the Veena: S. Balachander, a Biography.