Savarkar’s Petitions — 2

Full text of petition submitted by V.D. Savarkar to the Chief Commissioner, Andaman Islands, October 1914:

To the Chief Commissioner,

Sir,

The undersigned petitioner most humbly begs to tender the following petition, with a fervent hope that it will be forwarded to the Indian Government.

- Ever since this world shaking war that is now being fought in Europe broke out, nothing has sent such a thrill of hope and enthusiasm in the heart of every true Indian patriot as the fact that Indians including the youth of India have been allowed to wear the arms of fight against the common foe in defence of this country and the Empire. A thing which one has a right to protect is a thing in which one feels a sense of ownership; and fighting side by side with the other citizens of the Empire, the rising generation of India is sure to feel a sense of equality and therefore of a sincere loyalty to the same.

The author’s petition is written in context of the commencement of World War I. He has sought, it emerges from his words in the first bullet point, to present a logical and believable case explaining his endorsement of the decision by the British to draft Indians in support of efforts furthered for the prosecution of the war. His imprisonment had led to much ebb in revolutionary activity, and the revolutionary movement was disadvantaged. He thought, therefore, that the most profitable plan of action would have been a temporary policy of cooperation with the British, lest India be assailed by yet another nemesis, if not directly, then in a more indirect manner, as subsequent paragraphs shall illustrate.

Believing that the ideal of all political science and practice is or ought to be one Universal State; that therefore humanity is higher than patriotism, and therefore any empire that succeeds in wielding a number of conflicting races and nations in one harmonious whole without letting the growth of any one be staunched by the overshadowing domination of another, is a distinct step to the realization of that Ideal; I rejoiced to see the volunteering movement succeed and felt confident in the ultimate triumph of the far sighted and truly Imperial policy of conciliation and confidence inaugurated by Lord Hardinge’s administration. If the Government will but continue it, if the manhood of the nation be allowed to share the glories and responsibilities of the Empire with perfect equality with other citizens of it, then Indian patriots of all shades and opinions can conscientiously feel that burning sense of loyalty one feels for one’s motherland.

The tritely superficial conception of the author would belie an ignorance of the varied nature of his thoughts, for it would read into his literature no further than his conception of Hindutva and cultural nationalism. For beyond such cultural nationalist conceptions, which in his view were provisionally necessary, he was a staunch believer in universalism. As Dr. Sampath’s biography on him credibly demonstrates, the author, even in the earliest days of his revolutionary life when he was but in his early teens, was of the clear persuasion that the colonizing British ought to be evicted purely by reason of their refusal to treat Indians as humans, and not by reason of blind hatred of the British as a race. He further believed that were Britain to be colonized herself, an independent India ought to be the foremost supporter of Britain, on principle purely of humanity. The beginning of the second bullet point of his petition, therefore, is not at variance with his overarching philosophy which he held for life, but quite reflective thereof. That alone which his articulation over the years evinced, was a change from an idealistic exaltation of a unity between Hindus and Muslims, that reflected most prominently in his book on the 1857 war of independence (pgs. 14, 23, 28, 56, 58, 61, 70, 73, 79, 96, 101, 105, 117, 118, 120, 143, 155, 156, 157, 165, 168, 169, 170, 178, 184, 188, 189, 197, 203, 204, 214, 217, 219, 239, 251, 308, 336, 364, and others), to a vastly more realistic recognition of faultlines between Hindus and Muslims, but nonetheless a desire for unity, as is reflected in all of his speeches as president of the All India Hindu Mahasabha. His reference to Lord Hardinge is in context of the ostensible efforts of Viceroy Charles Hardinge to improve relations with Indian nationalists. The text, to the editor’s mind, conveys the author’s tactful manoeuvring with the British, in view of his recognition of the threat that the Triple Alliance might pose to India, if not directly, by means of the internal schismogenetic passions it might excite (from pg. 223 to pg. 247 and pg. 263 to 275). Worthy of notice is his emphasis on ‘equality’ within the British Empire, which to the editor’s mind is a subtle expression of grievance that this ideal had for long been overlooked, and that its manifestation was long overdue. The logical corollary thereof would be that the sense of resentment amongst Indians would continue, should the British have been as tenacious in their mistreatment as ever.

Therefore I most humbly beg to offer myself as a volunteer to do any service in the present war, that the Indian Government think fit to demand from me, I know that a Kingdom does not depend on the help of an insignificant individual as I am, but then I know this also that every individual however insignificant, is duty bound to volunteer his or her best for the defence of that Kingdom. I also beg to submit that nothing can contribute so much as to the widening and deeping [sic] the sentiment of loyalty in the Indian people as a general release of all those prisoners who had been convicted for committing political offences in India. Such a step at such a time would dispel the illusion which the foreigners seem to be labouring under, that because the Indians fight for equal rights inside the Empire, therefore they must be eager to get rid of it altogether and worse, invite others to side over them, secondly, the majority of these convicts would be staunchly attached to that power which might as it proved to chastise, would thus prove mightier still to forbear and forgive: and moreover when the Royal Road of constitutional success is thrown so wide open as Lord Hardinge has done, who is so depraved and fanatical as to hang to the thorny paths of blood or crime? Above all it is but a frank truth that there cannot be a real and whole hearted sympathy felt in a thousand homes in India — however they may hate the Germans — to that power which has kept a husband or a son or a father of a friend rotting in the jail: for blood is thicker than water. But a general release will, especially at such a critical time, make such a deep impression on the grateful people of India will touch their imagination to such a degree as no amount of Durbars and fireplays after the war ends can do, It will prove beyond all evil that English and Indian sons have perfect confidence in each other as far as the Imperial defence is concerned.

It is of interest to note that, in this paragraph, the author pleads not for himself alone, but all prisoners “convicted for committing political offences in India”. The remainder implies an eloquent attempt to impress upon the Government of British India, his willingness to cooperate with it, for as evinced in the foregoing note by the editor, he judged the British as the lesser evil for that particular period of time. This is in context of his recognition of internal social threats posed to India in consequence of World War I, which is illustrated in the book that features in the very last link in this post, the relevant pages of which, and which link alike, have been specified in the foregoing note by the editor.

If the Government suspect that my real intention in writing all this is only to secure my release, then I beg to submit let me not be released at all, with my exception let all the rest be released, let the volunteer movement go on — and I will rejoice in that as if myself was allowed to play an active part. It is only through a sincere desire to see the right thing done that I have dared to write this frank and outspoken petition for your gracious consideration.

The last bullet point of the author’s text alike explicitizes and enlarges the scope of the sentiment in the penultimate bullet point, of pleading also for other revolutionaries imprisoned across India and in the Cellular Jail where he was himself imprisoned. It is explicitized in that he belabours his desire to see others released, and enlarged in that he is prepared to stay imprisoned, would the British but release all others, and were they suspecting him of an insincerity of sentiment in his petition.

Here endeth the post.

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Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in full measure, and I hope to augment my acuity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

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Samved Iyer

Samved Iyer

Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in full measure, and I hope to augment my acuity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

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