Row over Rajnath Singh’s comments on Savarkar: Congress, historian Irfan Habib and Owaisi slam BJP for ‘distortion of history’

Owaisi says BJP will soon declare Savarkar as ‘the father of the nation’

Row over Rajnath Singh’s comments on Savarkar: Congress, historian Irfan Habib and Owaisi slam BJP for ‘distortion of history’

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (R) during a Veer Savarkar book release function in New Delhi. PTI

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 13

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh appears to have stirred up quite a controversy with his comment that it was on Mahatma Gandhi’s request that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, or Veer Savarkar as he is popularly known, wrote mercy petitions.

Opposition leaders, and some historians as well, attacked him, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and the BJP, accusing them of “trying to rewrite history”.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi shared on Twitter a letter by Gandhi on January 25, 1920 to Savarkar’s brother regarding a case and accused Singh of giving a “twist” to that.

“Rajnath Singhji is amongst the few sober and dignified voices in Modi Sarkar. But he doesn’t seem to be free of the RSS habit of rewriting history. He has given a twist to what Gandhi actually wrote on January 25, 1920. Here is that letter to Savarkar’s brother,” Ramesh said, sharing the letter.

Owaisi said the BJP will soon declare Savarkar as ‘father of the nation’ after the defence minister called him ‘mahanayak’ of Indian freedom struggle yesterday.

The AIMIM chief said the first petition Savarkar wrote was in 1911, just six months after getting to prison and Gandhi was then in South Africa. Savarkar wrote again in 1913/14 and Gandhi’s advice is from 1920.

“Rajnath Singh you said that Savarkar’s grovelling mercy petitions were on Gandhi’s advice. Here’s the letter to Savarkar from Gandhi. No mention of petition to British begging for leniency, mercy & promising to be a faithful servant of the crown,” Owaisi tweeted.

Historian S Irfan Habib said, “Yes, monochromatic history writing is really changing, led by the Minister who claims Gandhi asked Savarkar to write mercy petitions. At least it is accepted now that he did write. No documentary evidence needed when the Minister makes a claim. New history for New India.”

Defending Savarkar, Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha said “Congress opposes Savarkar ji who never integrated with British administration and exhibited the highest sacrifice for the Motherland. However, some people had regular dining at Mountbatten’s home!”

BJP IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya quoted Gandhi on Savarkar: “He is clever. He is brave, he is a patriot. The evil, in its hidden form of the present system of Government, he saw much earlier than I did. He is in the Andamans for having loved India too well. Under a just government he would be occupying a high post.”

BJP ally Janata Dal (United) demanded that letters exchanged between Gandhi and Savarkar should be made public to shed light on the matter.

Singh at an event to release a book on Savarkar yesterday alleged a “deliberate conspiracy” to defame Savarkar saying that it was on Gandhi’s advice that he wrote his mercy petitions. 

“He was an icon of Indian history and will remain so.

“Lies are spread about Savarkar repeatedly. It was spread that he filed many mercy petitions seeking his release from jails. It was Mahatma Gandhi who asked him to file the mercy petitions,” the Defence Minister claimed.

Bhagwat also alleged big game-plan to defame the Sangh Parivar and Savarkar after the Independence, describing him as a “true nationalist”. 

Amid the to and fro, historian and Savarkar’s biographer Vikram Sampath slammed the critics, saying “for the doubting Toms & asinine commentators, asking source etc pls (please) refer “Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi” vol 19, pp 348 & Vol 20, pp 368-371.

“I hope you don’t say Gandhi Ashram has doctored these letters. Can’t spoon feed you fellows more than this.  

“Some needless brouhaha about the statement by Rajnath Singh.

“In my Vol 1 and in countless interviews I had stated already that in 1920 Gandhiji advised Savarkar brothers to file a petition and even made a case for his release through an essay in Young India 26 May 1920. So what’s noise about.”

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