Chandigarh, May 30
Another controversy has erupted around Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, this time over the claim by the promotion team of the upcoming film ‘Swatantrya Veer Savarkar’ that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and Khudiram Bose were inspired by him, inviting considerable ire from social media, members of the Bose family and also the writer of ‘Savarkar’ Vikram Sampath.
Upon being questioned, biographer Vikram Sampath (writer of “Savarkar’) told some irate netizens: “That's a question you need to ask him & his film writer! I am not responsible for everything that anyone says, writes or utters about Savarkar, especially when I have explicitly clarified that none of these films are inspired/adaptations from my books nor did anyone consult me.”
Apart from the introduction as “freedom fighter and political leader”, Savarkar also goes by the description of “social reformer, writer, poet, historian, and philosopher”. While the ruling BJP chose to inaugurate the new Parliament building on August 28—his birth anniversary—the opposition Congress is no fan and blames Savarkar on several accounts.
This is also not the first time Savarkar’s legacy has been questioned or resulted in a controversy.
Savarkar, the films and the controversy
Actor Randeep Hooda plays the main protagonist in ‘Swatantrya Veer Savarkar’. The makers released its first teaser on his birth anniversary with a tagline “find out who killed his story”.
While the film was mostly welcomed by social media, the claim regarding Bose attracted much criticism, including from grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose who called it a “publicity stunt.”
“Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was inspired by only two great personalities. One is Swami Vivekananda, who was his spiritual Guru, and the second person was freedom fighter Deshbandhu Chitranjan Das, who was his political mentor. Apart from these two people, I don't think Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was inspired by any other freedom fighters.
“Savarkar was a great personality, a freedom fighter, but Savarkar's ideology and the ideology of Netaji were diametrically opposite. So, I don’t see any reason why Netaji would follow Savarkar’s principles and ideology. He actually opposed Savarkar”, he was quoted as saying by a TV channel.
In the teaser, Hooda can be heard saying how the freedom struggle that lasted for 90 years was fought only by a handful of people while the rest were hungry for power.
“Gandhiji was not a bad person but if he had not stood so firm on his non-violence ideology, India would have been a free country 35 years before it finally did,” says Hooda while calling Savarkar the “most wanted Indian by the British”, “the most feared revolutionary”, and “the man who inspired Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose, Khudiram Bose, and the armed revolution”.
Flush with the success of RRR, southern megastar Ram Charan has also announced the launch of ‘The India House’ named after the base of Savarkar in London. India House was a residence for Indian students run by nationalist lawyer and editor of the ‘Indian Sociologist’ Shyamji Krishna Varma.
Savarkar, who went to England to study law, made the India House his base for anti-British revolutionary activities.
What makes Savarkar a controversial figure?
Going by the way things are,Savarkar is expected to remain a hot political topic in the run up to the 2024 general elections.
Political observers, in fact, divide the life of Savarkar in two parts—as an anti-British revolutionary and a political leader devoted to ‘Hindutva.’
Savarkar was arrested for his activities and sentenced to prison in ‘Kala Pani’ (Andaman and Nicobar Islands). The long incarceration in the Cellular Jail and subsequent release following “acceptance of a mercy petition” marked the second phase of his life. It is then he turned to political activities, ‘Hindutva ‘and Hindu Mahasabha, they say.
Some historians believe his legacy may have been different had the British sentenced him to death and not imprisoned him for such long periods.
That is hindsight but senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor notes in his book ‘Why I Am A Hindu’: “Savarkar asserted: ‘Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva’. To him, the religion was therefore a subset of the political idea, rather than synonymous with it—something many of its proponents today would be surprised to hear.”
In his later life, Savarkar was also accused of being involved in the assassination of Gandhi.
Though he was acquitted and released from jail, Savarkar was again arrested for making “Hindu nationalist speeches”. He was released after agreeing to give up political activities, but he continued addressing the social and cultural elements of ‘Hindutva’.
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