Savarkar After Release — Not Remotely a ‘Stooge’
On 04 January 1924, Savarkar was released from internment. That in the course of his transportation he penned petitions to the Government of British India is known, the close scrutiny of which yields no evidence of his having consented to treason against the cause of India’s freedom.
Savarkar was released subject to the following conditions to be observed for five years; a period later extended for eight more years to a total of thirteen (he was therefore a free man in the true sense of the word only in 1937):
1. The said Vinayak Damodar Savarkar will reside within the territories administered by the Governor of Bombay in Council and within the Ratnagiri District within the said territories, and will not go beyond the limits of that district without the permission of Government or in case of urgency, of the District Magistrate.
2. He will not engage publicly or privately in any manner of political activities without the consent of Government for a period of five years, such restriction being renewable at the discretion of Government and the expiry of the said term.
Vigil at Chiplun
On 10 May 1924, a public event was organized at Chiplun where Savarkar was felicitated and offered Rs. 101 as a token of appreciation for his revolutionary efforts. In his acceptance speech, among other things, Savarkar mentioned that he wished more brave hearts fought like him so that his role was automatically forgotten by people. The police, ceaseless in its watch on his public utterances and activities, forthwith brought this to the attention of Alexander Montgomerie, Secretary to the Home Department in Bombay.
Montgomerie ruled, that, “We can hardly say that he has engaged in political activity. We ought to give him a fair chance…[and avoid] the harassment of being watched or reported on. We shall hear soon enough, if he does anything that might be filed.”
Vigil at Bombay
In view of a plague epidemic in Ratnagiri, Savarkar obtained permission from the government on 14 June 1924 to leave for Nashik temporarily. He was initially permitted to stay for three months and return precisely on 14 September, but he was allowed to stay on till the end of October 1924. In Nashik, he met his fellow revolutionary from his days in London, Pandurang Mahadev Bapat or ‘Senapati’ Bapat as he is now known. The British intelligence maintained a careful vigil on Savarkar in anticipation of the slightest evidence of his involvement in Bapat’s own continuing disruptive activities, one of which had an unusual blend of Gandhian tactics and violence.
In November 1924, Savarkar set forth to return to Ratnagiri, and stopped in Bombay on his way. Addressing the students of the National Medical College on 17 November, he called on them to aim for excellence and not settle for mediocrity; to attain physical fitness so that they may be prepared when they would be ‘called upon to serve the motherland and fight for it as a soldier’; to practice fighting with sticks and for the college conduct military drills; to do something extraordinary with their lives.
This little incident alone seemed to perturb the power corridors in Bombay. Police Commissioner Wilson sent a secret note to the Home Department:
We see Savarkar here in his old familiar surroundings of 1907, ploughing the same furrow and sowing rather adroitly the seeds of his pernicious doctrines. It is up to him to play the game and not allow himself to be exploited or tempted into laying round the terms of his bond…After the almost open incitement to violence, he passes on to his usual social reform propaganda. If accused of making a political speech, he would, no doubt explain that he was merely urging the youth of the country to be self-sacrificing and rash in the cause of social reform. He has violated the condition of his release.
However, Alexander Montgomerie wrote back:
Mr. Wilson may be told that in the opinion of the Government, Savarkar actually has not broken the conditions of his release, though he is getting very near to the margin and must, therefore, be carefully reported. Beyond calling India a fallen and downtrodden country, I doubt, if there is a phrase, which in itself is objectionable. That Savarkar intends to and did convey animosity to the Government, there is not the slightest doubt. But it would be exceedingly difficult to prove that in any one sentence, he had broken the conditions of his release. The incident only proves, he accepts the letter for his own safety, but never respects the spirit [of the conditions of his release].
The Precariousness of his Liberty
The 1920s was a decade of unenviable unrest — not on account of any glorious high tide of nationalist uprising against the British (which could not possibly be deemed ‘unenviable’) but because the Khilafat movement had amplified the animosities between Hindus and Muslims to a hitherto unseen profusion. The Congress high command was indifferent to such incidents wherein Hindus were victims.
On 01 March 1925, the Mahratta published a sarcastic article by Savarkar titled, ‘The Suffering Moslems of Kohat’. The government, as usual fearful of him, strongly objected to the article and sent him a show-cause notice on 28 March. On 06 April, Savarkar responded that his article was not political; that it was based on government data, and that he should be happy to correct his article were new data, should the government be so kind as to provide him with it, contradict his earlier contentions. He also cited the fourth chapter of the Quran in support of his arguments concerning Muslims in his article, thereby evidencing that naught of what he wrote was political.
The government was not satisfied with his explanations. On 06 May, it sent an admonishing reply, stating that the potential of his article to inflame communal feelings should have been obvious to him, and that such inflammation was contrary to the conditions of his release. He was warned to not repeat the act lest it ‘necessitate a reconsideration of his release.’
To be updated with more content in the fullness of time.
Source: Dr. Vikram Sampath, Savarkar: A Contested Legacy (1924–1966)