Veer Savarkar


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

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

Sriya Rane

[email protected]


Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has called for renaming the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) Office after the progenitor of Hindutva – VD Savarkar.

“Our University has forgotten the heroes of our freedom struggle. The place where Bhagat Singh was kept doesn’t even have a statue of him in the entire complex. I don’t even think half of the students even know of the Bhagat Singh jail below Vice Regal Lodge. Same is with Veer Savarkar. If studied thoroughly, he is the true inspiration for youngsters,” says Siddharth Yadav, the ABVP Delhi State Secretary, explaining why the DUSU Office should be renamed after Savarkar.

As reported by Outlook, Shakti Singh, President of the ABVP-led DUSU, had demanded that the DUSU Office be named ‘Veer Savarkar Bhawan’. The demand was made during the staging of the play ‘Hey Mrityunjay’, which is ‘based on time spent by Savarkar in the Andaman jail’ on 12th August.

An atheist, Vinayak Damodar ‘Veer’ Savarkar is credited as being the father of the Hindutva thought. Even though he did not coin the term ‘Hindutva’ – or “Hinduness” as he explained it – he theorised it as a cultural and political ideology. An advocate of acquiring independence from the British through revolutionary means, he was imprisoned due to his anti-British activities. A failed attempt to escape from prison landed him at the Cellular Jail or Kala Pani  in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. During this time, Savarkar wrote ‘Hindutva’, laying out an ideology that is at centre stage of contemporary Indian politics.

Perhaps even the admirers of Savarkar would agree that he is not an uncontroversial figure. Not every party holds him in the same high regard as the Hindutva parties do. Asaduddin Owaisi in a speech had questioned the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) by alleging that Savarkar had claimed that the tricolour could never be India’s national flag. Rahul Gandhi had in Parliament contrasted the Congress and the BJP’s ideologies by evoking the contrast between MK Gandhi and Savarkar; a row had followed. Savarkar was also tried, though acquitted for involvement in Gandhi’s murder.

The legitimacy of numerous claims can be discussed separately. Similarly, debating Savarkar’s political philosophy here would be futile; quoting a phrase or two from a whole body of work does not do justice to the writer or their thought – both the critique and the approbation remain shallow in that case. Yet, the point remains that Savarkar is a polarising figure.

So is it justified for the ABVP to demand that a student union office be named after a figure so controversial, especially when many parties would probably not consent? Mr. Yadav comments, “It is a demand and we have all the right to do so. Surely if discussions are done the so-called controversy would also be cleared. That was also one of the purpose[s] of the play where this demand was raised, to bring out the truth.”

Perhaps Savarkar deserves more attention, as do many other Indian revolutionaries in the historiography of the colonial period. Hindutva is a fascinating read, despite its holes and problems. Given today’s reality, it would only be wise to better understand the fountainhead of this ideology.

Yet, why should a university student union office be named after a political figure? Why can’t the name of the office remain apolitical, in spite of all the student politics around it? Moreover, why only Savarkar? What will the ABVP’s reaction be if the Left parties demand that the Office be named after, say, M.N. Roy?


Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Prateek Pankaj

[email protected]