By Shamsul Islam,
On May 28, 2014 Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi and his ministers turned up to pay tributes to ‘Veer’ Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. It is astonishing. This ‘Veer’ submitted not one but five (in 1911, 1913, 1914, 1918 & 1920) mercy petitions to the British rulers. The two comprehensive one of 1914 and 1920 are being reproduced so that real character of ‘Veer’ Savarkar is known by all.
Sardar Patel, the first home minister of India, held Savarkar responsible for murder of the Father of Nation. In a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru dated February 27, 1948 he wrote, “It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy (to kill Mahatma) and saw it through”.
It is further to be noted that he openly helped the British war efforts during the World War II at a time when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was trying to liberate India militarily from the British rule. Savarkar believed that Manu Code should be law of the land. He remained a diehard believer in Casteism, Racism, and imperialism throughout his life. He called it Hindutva.
If a person with such a despicable background is regarded as a hero of the nation then who can stop Mohammed Ali Jinnah from claiming this status?
MERCY PETITION 1
Petition from V D Savarkar (Convict No. 32778) to the Home Member of the Government of India, dated the 14th November, 1913.
I beg to submit the following points for your kind consideration:
(1) When I came here in 1911 June, I was along with the rest of the convicts of my party taken to the office of the Chief Commissioner.
There I was classed as “D” meaning dangerous prisoner; the rest of the convicts were not classed as “D”. Then I had to pass full 6 months in solitary confinement. The other convicts had not. During that time I was put on the coir pounding though my hands were bleeding. Then I was put on the oil-mill – the hardest labour in the jail. Although my conduct during all the time was exceptionally good still at the end of these six months I was not sent out of the jail; though the other convicts who came with me were. From that time to this day I have tried to keep my behaviour as good as possible.
(2) When I petitioned for promotion I was told I was a special class prisoner and so could not be promoted. When any of us asked for better food or any special treatment we were told “You are only
ordinary convicts and must eat what the rest do”. Thus Sir, Your Honour would see that only for special disadvantages we are classed as special prisoners.
(3) When the majority of the casemen were sent outside I requested for my release. But, although I had been cased (caned?) hardly twice or thrice and some of those who were released, for a dozen and more
times, still I was not released with them because I was their casemen. But when after all, the order for my release was given and when just then some of the political prisoners outside were brought into the troubles I was locked in with them because I was their casemen.
(4) If I was in Indian jails I would have by this time earned much remission, could have sent more letters home, got visits. If I was a transportee pure and simple I would have by this time been released, from this jail and would have been looking forward for ticket-leave, etc. But as it is, I have neither the advantages of the Indian jail nor of this convict colony regulation; though had to undergo the disadvanatges of both.
(5) Therefore will your honour be pleased to put an end to this anomalous situation in which I have been placed, by either sending me to Indian jails or by treating me as a transportee just like any other prisoner. I am not asking for any preferential treatment, though I believe as a political prisoner even that could have been expected in any civilized administration in the Independent nations of the world; but only for the concessions and favour that are shown even to the most depraved of convicts and habitual criminals? This
present plan of shutting me up in this jail permanently makes me quite hopeless of any possibility of sustaining life and hope. For those who are term convicts the thing is different, but Sir, I have
50 years staring me in the face! How can I pull up moral energy enough to pass them in close confinement when even those concessions which the vilest of convicts can claim to smoothen their life are
denied to me? Either please to send me to Indian jail for there I would earn (a) remission; (b) would have a visit from my people come every four months for those who had unfortunately been in jail know what a blessing it is to have a sight of one’s nearest and dearest every now and then! (c) and above all a moral – though not a legal – right of being entitled to release in 14 years; (d) also more letters and other little advantages. Or if I cannot be sent to India I should be released and sent outside with a hope, like any other convicts, to visits after 5 years, getting my ticket leave and calling over my family here. If this is granted then only one grievance remains and that is that I should be held responsible only for my own faults and not of others. It is a pity that I have to ask for this – it is such a fundamental right of every human being! For as there are on the one hand, some 20 political prisoners – young, active and restless, and on the other the regulations of a convict colony, by the very nature of them reducing the liberties of thought and expression to lowest minimum possible; it is but inevitable that every now and then some one of them will be found to have contravened a regulation or two and if all be held responsible for that, as now it is actually done – very little chance of being left outside remains for me.
In the end may I remind your honour to be so good as to go through the petition for clemency, that I had sent in 1911, and to sanction it for being forwarded to the Indian Government? The latest development of the Indian politics and the conciliating policy of the government have thrown open the constitutional line once more. Now no man having the good of India and Humanity at heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress.
Therefore if the government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress. As long as we are in jails there cannot be real happiness and joy in hundreds and thousands of homes of His Majesty’s loyal subjects in India, for blood is thicker than water; but if we be released the people will instinctively raise a shout of joy and gratitude to the government, who knows how to forgive and correct, more than how to chastise and avenge. Moreover my conversion to the constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide. I am ready to serve the government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me in jail nothing can be
got in comparison to what would be otherwise. The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the government?
Hoping your Honour will kindly take into notion these points. (Sd.) V.D. Savarkar, Convict no. 32778.
[The above ‘Mercy Petition’ has been reproduced from RC Majumdar’s book PENAL SETTLEMENTS IN ANDAMANS (pp. 211-214) published by the Department of Culture, Government of India in 1975.]
MERCY PETITION NO 2
CELLULAR JAIL, PORT BLAIR,
The 30th March 1920.
The CHIEF COMMISSIONER OF ANDAMANS
In view of the recent statement of the Hon’ble Member for the Home Department to the Government of India, to the effect that “the Government was willing to consider the papers of any individual, and give them their best consideration if they were brought before them”; and that “as soon as it appeared to the Government that an individual could be released without danger to the State, the Government would extend the Royal clemency to that person,” the undersigned most humbly begs that he should be given a last chance to submit his case, before it is too late. You, Sir, at any rate, would not grudge me this last favour of forwarding this petition to His Excellency the Viceroy of India, especially and if only to give me the satisfaction of being heard, whatever the Government decisions may be.
I. The Royal proclamation most magnanimously states that Royal clemency should be extended to all those who were found guilty of breaking the law “Through their eagerness for Political progress.” The cases of me and my brother are pre-eminently of this type. Neither I nor any of my family members had anything to complain against the Government for any personal wrong due to us nor for any personal favour denied. I had a brilliant career open to me and nothing to gain and everything to loose individually by treading such dangerous paths. Suffice it to say, that no less a personage than one of the Hon’ble Members for the Home Department had said, in 1913, to me personally, “… … Such education so much reading,… … .. you could have held the highest posts under our Government.” If in spite of this testimony any doubts as to my motive does lurk in any one, then to him I beg to point out, that there had been no prosecution against any member of my family till this year 1909; while almost all of my activity which constituted the basis for the case, have been in the years preceding that. The prosecution, the Judges and the Rowlatt Report have all admitted that since the year 1899 to the year 1909 had been written the life of Mazzini and other books, as well organised the various societies and even the parcel of arms had been sent before the arrest of any of my brothers or before I had any personal grievance to complain of (vide Rowlatt Report, pages 6 etc.). But does anyone else take the same view of our cases? Well, the monster petition that the Indian public had sent to His Majesty and that had been signed by no less than 5,000 signatures, had made a special mention of me in it. I had been denied a jury in the trial: now the jury of a whole nation has opined that only the eagerness for political progress had been the motive of all my actions and that led me to the regrettable breaking of the laws.
II. Nor can this second case of abetting murder throw me beyond the reach of the Royal clemency. For (a) the Proclamation does not make any distinction of the nature of the offence or of a section or of the Court of Justice, beyond the motive of the offence. It concerns entirely with the Motive and requires that it should be political and not personal. (b) Secondly, the Government too has already interpreted it in the same spirit and has released Barin and Hesu and others. These men had confessed that one of the objects of their conspiracy was “the murders of prominent Government officials” and on their own confessions, had been guilty of sending the boys to murder magistrates, etc. This magistrate had among others prosecuted Barin’s brother Arabinda in the first “Bande Mataram” newspaper case. And yet Barin was not looked upon, and rightly so, as a non-political murderer. In my respect the objection is immensely weaker. For it was justly admitted by the prosecution that I was in England, had no knowledge of the particular plot or idea of murdering Mr. Jackson and had sent the parcels of arms before the arrest of my brother and so could not have the slightest personal grudge against any particular individual officer. But Hem had actually prepared the very bomb that killed the Kennedys and with a full knowledge of its destination. (Rowlatt Report, page 33). Yet Hem had not been thrown out of the scope of the clemency on that ground. If Barin and others were not separately charged for specific abetting, it was only because they had already been sentenced to capital punishment in the Conspiracy case; and I was specifically charged because I was not, and again for the international facilities to have me extradited in case France got me back. Therefore I humbly submit that the Government be pleased to extend the clemency to me as they had done it to Barin and Hem whose complicity in abetting the murders of officers, etc., was confessed and much deeper. For surely a section does not matter more than the crime it contemplates. In the case of my brother this question does not arise as his case has nothing to do with any murders, etc.
III. Thus interpreting the proclamation as the Government had already done in the cases of Barin, Hem, etc. I and my brother are fully entitled to the Royal clemency “in the fullest measure.” But is it compatible with public safety? I submit it is entirely so. For (a) I most emphatically declare that we are not amongst “the microlestes of anarchism” referred to by the Home Secretary. So far from believing in the militant school of the type that I do not contribute even to the peaceful and philosophical anarchism of a Kuropatkin or a Tolstoy. And as to my revolutionary tendencies in the past:- it is not only now for the object of sharing the clemency but years before this have I informed of and written to the Government in my petitions (1918, 1914) about my firm intention to abide by the constitution and stand by it as soon as a beginning was made to frame it by Mr. Montagu. Since that the Reforms and then the Proclamation have only confirmed me in my views and recently I have publicly avowed my faith in and readiness to stand by the side of orderly and constitutional development. The danger that is threatening our country from the north at the hands of the fanatic hordes of Asia who had been the curse of India in the past when they came as foes, and who are more likely to be so in the future now that they want to come as friends, makes me convinced that every intelligent lover of India would heartily and loyally co-operate with the British people in the interests of India herself. That is why I offered myself as a volunteer in 1914 to Government when the war broke out and a German-Turko-Afghan invasion of India became imminent. Whether you believe it or not, I am sincere in expressing my earnest intention of treading the constitutional path and trying my humble best to render the hands of the British dominion a bond of love and respect and of mutual help. Such an Empire as is foreshadowed in the Proclamation, wins my hearty adherence. For verily I hate no race or creed or people simply because they are not Indians!
(b) But if the Government wants a further security from me then I and my brother are perfectly willing to give a pledge of not participating in politics for a definite and reasonable period that the Government would indicate. For even without such a pledge my failing health and the sweet blessings of home that have been denied to me by myself make me so desirous of leading a quiet and retired life for years to come that nothing would induce me to dabble in active politics now.
(c) This or any pledge, e.g., of remaining in a particular province or reporting our movements to the police for a definite period after our release – any such reasonable conditions meant genuinely to ensure the safety of the State would be gladly accepted by me and my brother. Ultimately, I submit, that the overwhelming majority of the very people who constitute the State which is to be kept safe from us have from Mr. Surendranath, the venerable and veteran moderate leader, to the man in the street, the press and the platform, the Hindus and the Muhammadans – from the Punjab to Madras – been clearly persistently asking for our immediate and complete release, declaring it was compatible with their safety. Nay more, declaring it was a factor in removing the very `sense of bitterness’ which the Proclamation aims to allay.
IV. Therefore the very object of the Proclamation would not be fulfilled and the sense of bitterness removed, I warn the public mind, until we two and those who yet remain have been made to share the magnanimous clemency.
V. Moreover, all the objects of a sentence have been satisfied in our case. For (a) we have put in 10 to 11 years in jail, while Mr. Sanyal, who too was a lifer, was released in 4 years and the riot case lifers within a year; (b) we have done hard work, mills, oil mills and everything else that was given to us in India and here; (c) our prison behaviour is in no way more objectionable than of those already released; they had, even in Port Blair, been suspected of a serious plot and locked up in jail again. We two, on the contrary, have to this day been under extra rigorous discipline and restrain and yet during the last six years or so there is not a single case even on ordinary disciplinary grounds against us.
VI. In the end, I beg to express my gratefulness for the release of hundreds of political prisoners including those who have been released from the Andamans, and for thus partially granting my petitions of 1914 and 1918. It is not therefore too much to hope that His Excellency would release the remaining prisoners too, as they are placed on the same footing, including me and my brother. Especially so as the political situation in Maharastra has singularly been free from any outrageous disturbances for so many years in the past. Here, however, I beg to submit that our release should not be made conditional on the behaviour of those released or of anybody else; for it would be preposterous to deny us the clemency and punish us for the fault of someone else.
VII. On all these grounds, I believe that the Government, hearing my readiness to enter into any sensible pledge and the fact that the Reforms, present and promised, joined to common danger from the north of Turko-Afghan fanatics have made me a sincere advocate of loyal co-operation in the interests of both our nations, would release me and win my personal gratitude. The brilliant prospects of my early life all but too soon blighted, have constituted so painful a source of regret to me that a release would be a new birth and would touch my heart, sensitive and submissive, to kindness so deeply as to render me personally attached and politically useful in future. For often magnanimity wins even where might fails.
Hoping that the Chief Commissioner, remembering the personal regard I ever had shown to him throughout his term and how often I had to face keen disappointment throughout that time, will not grudge me this last favour of allowing this most harmless vent to my despair and will be pleased to forward this petition – may I hope with his own recommendations? – to His Excellency the Viceroy of India.
I beg to remain,
Your most obedient servant,
(Sd.) V.D. Savarkar,
Convict no. 32778.
[Available in the National Archives of India]