The University of Delhi (DU) saw controversy unfold over Savarkar, from demands to rename the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) Office after V.D. Savarkar, to the installation of a pillar with his bust, along with those of Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh in the campus. The ideological warfare about his thoughts continues to be controversial.
As the DUSU elections approach, the University is grappling with the Savarkar Statue Controversy. The illegal installation of the bust, followed by its removal, reveals the ideological tussle between the different schools of thought.
An extremist in his thoughts, Savarkar was an Indian Independence activist who rebelled against the British rule through revolutionary means, and was imprisoned due to his anti-coloniser activities. Following a failed attempt to escape while being transported from Marseilles in France, he was sentenced to two life terms of imprisonment, and eventually landed in the cellular jail or Kala Pani. Savarkar has been always been at the eye of the storm, for being viewed as a “coward” since he wrote letters to the British, pleading to be released from the torture of the cellular jail.
Being an atheist, he believed that Hinduism was a political identity having a powerful moral force. While in prison, Savarkar wrote the work describing Hindutva in which he defined that all people descended from Hindu culture as being a part of Hindutva, including Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. The noted journalist, Manu Joseph, recently opined, “The erasure of Savarkar by intellectuals 1.0 was so complete that at the end of it all, he was not even a villain. He was not mentioned in textbooks even as one of the accused in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Savarkar’s insight was that Hinduism was a powerful political identity that does not require gods, or even the cow actually, whom he did not love very much, and that Hinduism is a fundamental genetic force in all Indians. In this way, he invented Hindutva.”
The very fact that the revolutionary ideas of Savarkar remain to be missing from our mainstream reading and textbooks, does not allow the discussion on his extreme views in the freedom struggle movement through Hindutva. Vaibhav Purandare, in his book The True Story of the Father of Hindutva reveals Savarkar’s professed hatred for Muslims. In his early years as a revolutionary, Savarkar asked Hindus and Muslims to get along, but eventually, he wished to subdue Muslims.
Earlier this month, on 12th August, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) demanded the DUSU Office be named after Veer Savarkar. Following this, the ABVP and DUSU installed the busts of
V.D. Savarkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Bhagat Singh outside the Faculty of Arts in the North Campus and faced criticism, followed by the attack on the statue and smearing black colour on the bust by the National Students’ Union of India.
Shakti Singh, the outgoing President of DUSU, said, “Since the beginning of my term, I was requesting the DU administration for establishing the statues but never got a reply from them. The left-wing forces and the Congress party have always defamed Veer Savarkar. So, I wanted that this issue should be debated so that the youth can know about his contribution to the freedom struggle of the country.”
Madhu Prasad, former Professor of Philosophy, Zakir Hussain College said, “Bhagat Singh believed that the country won’t get freedom unless there is equality. However, the current scenario in this country does not allow debate, discussion, and dissent, and idolising Savarkar is against the essence of freedom.”
While he worked upon reforming and revolting the colonial rule, his extreme positions on Gandhi, Hindu Rashtra, and Muslims bestows him with political exclusion.
Feature Image Credits: Prateek Pankaj for DU Beat