In redrawing the borders of India and scrapping the discriminatory Article 370, the Narendra Modi government has realised a long-cherished dream of Savarkar, in addition to fulfilling S.P. Mookerjee’s dying wish.
Savarkar, Mookerjee, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and now Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have all been led by their unwavering belief in the unitary nature of Indian polity.
This idea of a strong, united ‘Akhand Bharat’ naturally made its way into the Modi government’s decision to scrap Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The idea has remained consistent right from the time Savarkar propounded it in the 1920s.
One god, one country, one goal
After 11 years of incarceration in the Cellular Jail in the Andamans, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was shifted to mainland India to the Ratnagiri prison in 1921. After spending close to three years there, he was finally let off on a conditional release in January 1924.
The reforms that Savarkar had ushered in the prisons and his own magnetic personality inspired several fellow political prisoners. When he was being released in 1924, he urged prison inmates to commit themselves to one guiding mantra: “One God, One Country, One Goal, One Caste, One Life, One Language.” (My Transportation for Life, Savarkar)
Irrespective of the omissions that one might criticise the Indian political Right-wing for, this foundational idea of Savarkar has been the cornerstone of its philosophy.
The idea of a united India has been a constant feature in all the manifestos of the Jana Sangh and the BJP. So, it’s no surprise that the BJP has implemented it when it has majority in Parliament. The contours of ‘how’ it would be implemented was debated, never the ‘if’.
Savarkar’s national principle
In the Hindu Mahsaabha’s 19th Annual Session held at Karnavati (Ahmedabad) in 1937, Savarkar delivered his Presidential address. He reiterated that “Hindusthan must remain one and indivisible.” The Independent India of his dreams was one that was not only “united”, but also a “Unitarian nation” – from Kashmir to Rameshwaram, from Sindh to Assam. (Hindu Rashtra Darshan, Savarkar)
In a statement released on 31 July 1942, Savarkar recounted his tour of Kashmir and the entreaties that came to him from both the Hindu as well as the Muslim population of the princely state.
Savarkar mentioned, with a sense of alarm, the views of Mahatma Gandhi that if the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir could not appease and secure the confidence of his Muslim citizens, he had no right to rule and should rather go to Kashi and perform penance. The same Gandhi, wondered Savarkar, never admonished the Nizam of Hyderabad for not securing the confidence of the majority Hindu population there, nor did he ask the Nizam to relinquish power and proceed to Mecca to perform tauba, each time communal decisions of the administration or riots rocked that princely state.
The President of the Jammu and Kashmir Conference had called on Savarkar and demanded the support of the Hindu Mahasabha for the Muslim majority of Kashmir for their doctrine that population strength be the basis of any democracy. In his reply, Savarkar emphasised that the principle that bound him and the Hindu Mahasabha was this:
“The National principle which forms the political creed of the Mahasabha lays it down that all citizens who owe undivided loyalty and allegiance to the Indian nation and to the Indian state shall be treated with perfect equality and shall share duties and obligations equally in common, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, and the representation also shall either be on the basis of one man one vote or in proportion to the population in case of separate electorates and public services shall go by merit alone.”
The indispensable criterion according to Savarkar in this prescription was that it applied only to those persons who were both Indian citizens and owed an undivided loyalty to India.
How could these organisations “in Kashmir or outside who contribute to the Pakistani creed, declare that they want to secede from the Indian state and can therefore owe no loyalty to the Central Indian Government” lay claims to any benefits or rights, he questioned. They were “incipient enemies of…the Indian nation, like any suspected aliens who reside in the country,” he argued. (Historic Statements by Savarkar, Karnatak Printing Press)
According to Savarkar, the first duty of a state and a nation is, and ought to be, self-preservation and self-defence. No self-respecting and responsible country in the world could allow that section which openly aims to create “a State within a state,” to dominate it.
And handing over vitals arms of the state such as military and police to such a secessionist section was little short of suicide, in his view.
The doctrine of due representation by population would need to be uniformly applied across India, even in states such as Hyderabad or Bhopal where the Hindus were in a majority and were ruled by a Muslim ruler. Savarkar called upon the Muslim population of Kashmir to give up its “airy ambitions of a Pakistani federation” or any nefarious plans to annex the Hindu state and instead work by building mutual trust and goodwill with the government of India in order to secure the rights they were due.
A warning to Nehru
Although muted in his political opinions after Independence and in the wake of his trial in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, Savarkar reiterated his resolve of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir being an “integral part of India” in his statement on 23 June 1953.
This was issued after the mysterious death of his “respected comrade and a friend” Syama Prasad Mookerjee in a jail in Kashmir. “May his martyrdom,” said Savarkar in his eulogy, “seal the cause of the inseparable and total integration of the whole of Kashmir, with Hindusthan Republic. Ek Vidhan (one constitution) Ek Pradhan (one Prime Minister), Ek Nishan (one Flag) was the motto for which he fought and laid down his life on the field. Let us take up the flag and carry on the fight to success. That alone can be the real monument to commemorate the great leader.” (Hindu Rashtra Darshan, Savarkar)
On 28 December 1962, about three years before his death, Savarkar had cautioned the Jawaharlal Nehru government not to stretch its policy of appeasement with regard to the Muslims of Kashmir to the point where it becomes dangerous for the whole of India.
“Pakistan will not be pleased even if you give it the whole of Kashmir,” he warned, “They will continue to make further demands raising the slogan ‘Haske liya Pakistan, marke lenge Hindustan’. All political problems, permanent as well as temporary, should be solved by judging what is most beneficial to our country.”
It is noteworthy that it took more than half a century and an ideological inheritor of the same political philosophy to weld Kashmir politically and constitutionally into the Indian polity.
The economic, social, cultural and more importantly, emotional integration is what is more important and needs to be followed now with utmost caution and care.
The author is a Senior Research Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and has an upcoming biography — ‘Savarkar: Echoes from a Forgotten Past’. The information mentioned in this article is part of the author’s archival research in India and the UK for his book. Views are personal.