Veer Savarkar – Who is a Hindu?

We had seen how Savarkar’s tenure in Cellular Jail, which on the one hand drained him out physically, also saw some of his best output as a writer, poet. We now look at how his 12 year old tenure in Cellular Jail, shaped his ideology and the birth of Hindutva too. Though technically, Hindutva was believed to be coined by Chandranath Basu, that is another topic altogether and beyond the scope of this post.

Savarkar was some one who believed in action, much more pragmatic about life and the world. While a revolutionary, and a nationalist, he did not believe in the concept of sacrifice just for the sake of it. He was some one who believed in living to fight another day. In a sense, he was closer to the central philosophy of the Gita, always do your duty, no matter what the consequences. For him life was a flower with three petals,one rich with the hues of pleasure, another with the color of pain and the third having no colors. For him pain and pleasure were a part of life, and he refused to be overwhelmed by the latter, nor feel let down too much by the former.

For some one who came close to death, many a time, it held no fears for him. He felt he had paid his debt to Bharat, by throwing himself into the fire of revolution and consumed to the bone by it. He had to sacrifice everything, his family was scattered, his Bhabhi died a destitute, his elder brother a prisoner, his property confiscated. The long years in Cellular Jail, had developed him in a sense of detachment from the material world. And he was confident, that his good Karma, would accompany him into his next births.

His solitary confinement in Cellular Jail, had given him ample time to think, and develop his own philosophical, political theories. All the thoughts he gained from books and thinking, began to coalesce into a distinct ideology of it’s own. His main concern was the rapid demographic changes going on, the decline in Hindu population and the proselytizing by Muslims and Christians. The conversions of Hindus into other faiths, made him restless. Most Indian prisons in the British Raj, had a majority of Hindu prisoners. And the jailors, havaldars, wardens were usually Muslims, especially Pathans. These Pathans, would often brutally beat up the Hindu prisoners, torture them, and often force conversion to Islam. The miserable conditions in prison and the brutal torture meant a good number of Hindus converted for smaller favors.

Savarkar decided to take on this forcible conversion and make Hindus feel more proud about themselves. He began to reach out to Hindu prisoners, asked them to take more pride in their faith, and not convert for momentary gain. When the Superintendent asked him, why he was complaining, why not let Hindus convert. Savarkar replied back “Hinduism does not believe in conversions. For us Hinduism is not a way to material pleasures, we do not offer inducements to convert for the sake of food or shelter”. Soon the Hindus began to pay heed to Savarkar, and the conversions came down. In spite of death threats from the superintendent Barrie, Savarkar stuck to his mission. When census was undertaken, Savarkar, persuaded all Hindus and Arya Samajis to record their faith as Hindu or Arya-Sikh Hindu. As per Savarkar, this was how he defined a Hindu –

Aasindhu sindhu paryantaa Yasya Bharata Bhoomika/ Pitrubhu Punyabhuchaiva Tavai Hinduriti Smritah.

Loosely translated it stands for

Those who regard this land of Bharat spread between the river Sindhu (in the north) and the ocean Sindhu (Sindhu Sagar — Indian Ocean in the south) as their Pitrubhumi (fatherland) and Punyabhumi (holy land) are called Hindus

Savarkar did not have any personal animosity towards Muslims, but he hated their aggressive conversion tactics, as well as those of Missionaries. In fact in Cellular Jail he fought for the rights of Hindu as well as Muslim prisoners.

While it may be debated about who coined Hindutva first, the fact remains it was Savarkar who gave it a definitive shape and bought it into the public. The backdrop was the 1921 Moplah revolt, in Malabar, where thousands of Hindus were massacred, their women raped and many were forcibly converted. Yet Mahatma Gandhi refused to condemn the brutalities of the Moplahs, and in fact praised them as God fearing noble human beings.

Savarkar came up with the ideology of Hindutva in his landmark work, that he published under a pseudo name Maharatta. It is this book that laid down the foundations of Hindutva and Hindu nationalist movement in the years to come. It was an outcome of Savarkar’s own reflections on the situation around him. As well as a reaction to what he felt was Gandhi’s appeasement of Muslim fanatics in the name of secularism.

Swami Shraddhananda, noted Arya Samaj leader and one of the key figures of the Shuddhi movement had this to say “It must have been one of those Vedic dawns indeed which inspired our seers with new truths that revealed to the author of Hinduvta this Mantra, this definition of Hinduvta”.

Sources- Essentials of Hindutva by Savarkar

(This article first appeared on the author’s blog and is being reproduced with his consent)

About the Author

Ratnakar Sadasyula
I am a 40 year old Blogger with a passion in movies, music,books, Quizzing and politics. A techie by profession, and a writer at heart. Seeking to write my own book one day.