Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966), Hindu Maha Sabha leader and a prominent ideologue of Hindutva movement in India, is hitting news headlines again. The life and stances of Savarkar, called Veer Savarkar by Hindutva followers and coward Savarker by secular-nationalists had always been ridden with controversy.
It is a fact that the British had put Savarkar under arrest in a cellular jail when he was part of the national freedom movement. But before long he came out of the jail by submitting an apology to the British. Even as he was part of the nationalist movement, he was consistently against Mahatma Gandhi. Savarkar is one who took a stance against the Quit India agitation when the country was sizzlling in its spirit. Following the assassination of Gandhiji at the hands of Hindutva following on 30 January 1948, Savarkar was in the list of accused. And he was arrested on 5 February 1948 on charges of murder, conspiracy to murder, abetment to murder. However, the trial court exonerated him for want of evidence.
It is difficult for us to judge whether Savarkar had any direct role in the assassination of Gandhi. But it is undeniable that he was staunchly anti-Gandhi. It is also true that those who pulled the trigger were those inspired by Savarkar's ideas. But as time passed by, in 2003 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister, we saw a portrait of Savarkar being unveiled in parliament beside that of Gandhiji. But the country could only stand in silent awe when a man who stood opposite the ideas of Gandhiji, and was listed among accused in the case of his assassination, was honoured in the precincts of India's parliament. Still later, in 2019 we saw Pragya Singh, who publicly praised Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse, being elected to parliament. That marked the distance traversed by the country in seven decades. And now in BJP's manifesto for Maharashtra assembly polls, comes the declaration that it will make attempts to confer posthumous honour of Bharat Ratna on Savarkar.
The inclusion of Savarkar's Bharat Ratna in the manifesto of Maharashtra's assembly election has political motives. Savarkar enjoys a hero's image among Maratha exponents. This promise also would be music to the ears of Shiv Sena which advocates Maratha chauvinism. And there are several extreme Hindutva groups based in Maharashtra who work outside the sangh parivar mainstream there. That school can also be inducted through such a plank. Viewed from that angle, this is a good electoral strategy.
But there are also dimensions to it beyond that of a mere electoral strategy . One of them is to send out a message internally and for outsiders that they are still firm on a Hindutva platform. Another is to flabbergast the opponents, without even giving them an edge for defence, by putting forward one controversial decision after another, and implement their agenda. One needs only to look at the speed with which crucial decisions like Kashmir and NRC were implemented. It can be expected that they wil come to other agenda items like Babri Masjid, uniform civil code and simultaneous elections. The strategy apparently is to deny the Opposition even breathing time to prepare themselves, by taking decisions with striking power one after another. Together with this is the gain by taking along all sections who subscribe to frenzied nationalism and Hindutva. Now when the Opposition will be engrossed in talking about Savarkar, they will take out their next card. Thus overall, a scenario will emerge in which poliltics will have to follow Hindutva agenda.
Two days ago, the head of Akal Takht, the apex body of Sikh community came out declaring that RSS will not be allowed to make India a Hindu nation and demanding that the RSS should be banned. Opposition to the imposition of Hindu came from Tamil Nadu and Bengal. In the north-eastern states, opposition against the Citizenship Act is intensifying. In other words, in different parts of the country protests do emerge against the centralised Hindutva-India. Only by co-ordination of such voices can Hindutva agenda be overcome. On the contrary, if opposition run after bits of agenda dropped by BJP and sangh parivar from time to time, that will be equal to gifting BJP an easy victory . The task before the Opposition certainly is to bring together the social denominations that get alienated by the continuing Hindutva plots.