Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (May 28, 1883 – February 26, 1966) was an Indian freedom fighter, a revolutionary and politician. He is credited with developing the Hindu nationalist political ideology Hindutva. Savarkar was a poet, writer and playwright. He launched a movement for religious reform advocating dismantling the system of caste in Hindu culture, and reconversion of the converted Hindus back to Hindu religion. The five philosophical dimensions of Savarkar were Utilitarianism, Rationalism and Positivism, Humanism and Universalism, Pragmatism and Realism.
Vinayak was one of four children. His elder brother Ganesh (Babarao) was to have a strong influence in his life. Vinayak lost his parents at a very young age. The burden of the family fell on elder brother Babarao’s shoulders. Vinayak spent his youth in fighting against the British Raj. As an extremely brilliant, outspoken and confident school boy, he was famous amongst his teachers and friends. In 1898 when Chaphekar brothers were hanged for assassinating the British Officer – Mr. Rand, Savarkar was just 15 years old. But Chaphekar’s martyrdom impressed him and he decided to devote all his efforts for India’s freedom. His patriotic spirit found an outlet when he formed an organization called the ‘Mitra Mela’. He encouraged the young, patriotic members of the Mela to strive for “absolute political independence for India” by whatever means necessary. The Mitra Mela also played an important role in Nasik during the plague by serving the victims.
Revolutionary Activities and Execution
After matriculation in 1901, Savarkar took admission in Fergusson College of Poona and very soon dominated campus life. He, along with a group of students began dressing alike and using swadeshi goods only. He renamed the “Mitra Mela” as “Abhinav Bharat” and declared “India must be independent”. In 1905, Savarkar and his friends expressed their resentment on the partition of Bengal by lighting a huge bonfire of foreign goods.
His instigating patriotic speeches and activities incensed the British Government. As a result the British Government withdrew his B.A. degree. In June 1906 he left for London to become Barrister. However, once in London, he united and inflamed the Indian students in England against British. He believed and advocated the use of arms to free India from the British and created a network of Indians in England, equipped with weapons.
The British government arrested Savarkar in London on 13 March 1910 on some fabricated charges and he was sent to India for trial. However as the ship in which he was being taken neared Marseilles in France, Savarkar escaped and swam to the port. According to the plan his friends were to be there beforehand, but they reached late and he was caught by the French Police.
Savarkar was declared guilty and was sentenced to 50 years of ‘Kala Paani’ in Andaman on 24 December 1910. Life for the prisoners was very harsh and the conditions inhuman. Since 4 July 1911, he was in Andaman Jail in solitude. Savarkar withdrew within himself, quietly and mechanically doing the tasks presented to him. He was successful in getting permission to start a jail library. With great effort and patience he taught the illiterate convicts to read and write. In 1920, Vithalbhai Patel demanded the release of the Savarkar brothers in the Central Legislative Assembly. Tilak and Gandhi also appealed for the release of Savarkar. On May 2, 1921, Savarkar was brought back to India.
Savarkar remained imprisoned in Ratnagiri Jail and then in Yeravada Jail until January 6, 1924 when he was freed under the condition that he would not leave Ratnagiri district and abstain from political activity for the next five years. On his release, Savarkar founded the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha on January 23, 1924 that aimed to preserve India’s ancient culture and work for social welfare. Later Savarkar joined Tilak’s Swaraj Party and founded the Hindu Mahasabha as a separate political party. He was elected President of the Mahasabha and toiled for building Hindu Nationalism and later joined the Quit India movement.
Savarkar was not only a fervent freedom fighter but he was also a good orator, prolific writer, a poet, a historian, a philosopher, and a social worker. His contribution to Marathi literature is immense. Savarkar breathed his last at the age of 83. He passed away on February 26, 1966.