Friday, August 26, 2016

Six Paths to India's Future - First Path Veer Savarkar's Hindu Nationalist path

In Sources of Indian Tradition, edited by Wm Theodore de Bary, Six Paths to India's Future have been suggested. "In this concluding chapter of our survey of more than three thousand years of Indian thought, the doctrines of six contrasting schools - not of metaphysics but of political philosophy -  are presented by authoritative spokesmen. Hindu nationalism in its most virulent form (sic), dictatorial National Socialism (sic), liberal Democratic Socialism, revolutionary International Communism, evolutionaru National Communism, and Gandhian decentralism - all vie with one another for control of men's mind in independent India. Which school, if any, will win out is perhaps in the long run is less important than the fact that all together have been slowly but surely acting to leaven the dough of age-old custom and belief with the bitter yeast of politics.
 1. V.D Savarkar's Hindu Nationalist path;
2. S.C. Bose's National Socialist path;
3. J. Nehru's Democratic Socialist path;
4. M.N. Roy's From International Communist to Radical Humanist path;
5. 'National' Communist path; and
6. Vinoba Bhave's Gandhian Decentralist path.
 It's significant that of the six path only Savarkar's path has been associated with Hindu nationalism.The fact that the book was published in 1958, when Nehruvian influence was at its strongest, colours the thinging of scholars, both foreign and Indian. Not surprisingly Savarkar's Hindu Nationalist, Netaji's National Socialist ( a la Hitler!), Nehru's liberal democratic socialist and most surprisingly 'National Communist' as opposed to International Communism of MN Roy find place here.

V.D. Savarkar: Hindu Nationalist.
Unaffected by the new political ideas that came into India after the First World War, but exacerbated by the rise of Muslim nationalism, the tradition of extreme Hindu nationalism has been carried forward into the post-independence period by a group of zealots deeply imbued with its ideology. Its most outstanding proponent and theoretician in recent decades has been Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Born in 1883, and a Chitpavan brahman like his fellow Maharashtrians Ranade, Gokhale and Tilak, Savarkar was the second son of a landowner known for both his Sanskrit scholarship and his Western-style education.
Two incidents from his youth presaged his lifelong antipathy to those he considered Hinduism's foes. At the age of ten, hearing of bloody Hindu-Muslim riots in the United Provinces, he led a gang of his schoolmates in a stone-throwing attack on the village mosque. At sixteen, his anger at the hanging of two Maharashtrian terrorists (sic) made him vow to devote his life to driving the British out of India.
On entering Fergusson College at Poona, Savarkar quickly organized a patriotic society among his fellow-students. Through poems, articles, and speeches he reminded them of India's glorious past and the need to regain her freedom. In 1905 he arranged for a bonfire of foreign cloth and persuaded Tilak to speak to the crowd gathered around it. For this he was rusticated from his college, but with Tilak's help secured a scholarship to study in London from an Indian patriot there, on the understanding that he would never enter government service.
From 1906 to 1910, in the guise (sic) of a student of law, the young Savarkar bearded the British lion in its den. His "New India" group learned the art of bomb-making from a Russian revolutionary in Paris, and planned the assassination of the hated Lord Curzon. One member of the group electrified London when he shot and killed an important official of the India Office and the proudly went to the gallows. Savarkar himself was arrested a few months later, but by this time he had already published his nationalistic interpretation of the 1857-58 Mutiny (sic) and Rebellion, entitling it The First Indian War of Independence of 1857.
When the ship carrying him back to India for trial stopped at Marseilles, Savarkar created an international incident by swimming ashore and claiming asylum on French soil. The Hague International Tribunal ultimately judged his recapture by the British authorities irregular but justifiable, but by this time he had already been sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1911 Savarkar was transported to the Andaman Islands ( India's "Devil's Island " in the tropical Bay of Bengal) ehere he found his elder brother, a renowned terrorist (sic), already there before him.
Agitation in India secured his release from confinement in 1924, but until 1937 his movements were restricted and he was forbidden to take part in politics. Nehru, Bose, and Roy all sent him congratulatory messages on his final return to the political arena, and the Hindu Mahasabha, founded in 1919 (or 1921!) and the largest Hindu communal party (sic), elected him as their president for seven consecutive years, until failing health forced him to resign.
Intending to unite and strengthen all Hindudom, Savarkar advocated the removal of inter-caste barriers, the entry of untouchables into orthodox temples, and the reconversion of Hindus who had become Muslims or Christians. During the Second World War he propagated the slogan: " Hinduize all politics and militarize Hindudom," and urged Hindus to enlist in the armed forces in order to learn the arts of war.
Savarkar and Gandhi had disagreed from the time of their discussions in London in 1909 ( which may have been what provoked the latter to write his famous Hind Swaraj ). Savarkar now made no bones about his conviction that Gandhi's doctrine of absolute nonviolence was "absolutely sinful." As the fateful hour of independence from British rule drew near, Savarkar and the Mahasabha strenuously opposed the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan. Gandhi's apparent vacillation on this issue and his post-Partition fasts for the protection of Muslims and for good-will toward Pakistan infuriated many Hindu nationalists. Early in 1948 one of them, to avenge what he felt was Gandhi's betrayal of the Hindu cause, felled him with three pistol shots.
The assassin, N.V.Godse, although no longer a member of the Mahasabha, was still known as a devoted lieutenant of Savarkar, who consequently had to stand trial with him. Acquitted because of lack of evidence linking him to the crime itself, but too ill to lead an active life, Savarkar retired to his home in Bombay. The ideology he helped to shape continues to animate the Hindu nationalist organizations, which in addition to the Hindu Mahasabha now include the RSS, the Jan Sangh, and Ram Rajya Parishad. Although greatly overshadowed by the Congress Party, their appeal to both patriotic and religious sentiment gives them a potentially strong position in India politics.

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