INDIA. Mumbai: A war of attrition has begun between the Congress and its opponents following Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s offending remarks against veteran freedom fighter Barrister Vinayak Damodar Savarkar during his ongoing “Bharat Jodo Yatra” in Maharashtra.
While a non-cognizable offence was registered against Gandhi by Savarkar’s great-grandson Ranjit Savarkar and Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) MP Rahul Shewale at the Shivaji Park police station on Thursday, a similar complaint was filed by a Shiv Sena functionary, Vandana Dongre, at the Thane City police station on Friday.
The complaints were registered under Sections 500 (defamation) and 501 (printing or engraving matter knowing it to be defamatory) of the Indian Penal Code.
On Friday, Maharashtra’s government passed a resolution condemning Gandhi’s remarks, and Cultural Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that at no cost, Maharashtra will tolerate an insult to Savarkar.
It may be recalled that Rahul Gandhi appeared on December 6, 2018, before a local court in Bhiwandi (Thane district) and pleaded “not guilty” for his remark that RSS people killed Mahatma Gandhi and the BJP was opposed to Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel.
Continuing his diatribe, Gandhi stated in a press conference in Akola district on Thursday that Savarkar had begged for mercy and had pledged his support to the British. He had cited from a letter purportedly written by Savarkar to the Britishers during the freedom struggle.
“Sir, I beg to remain your most obedient servant,” Savarkar said and signed on to it, Gandhi claimed, adding that “Savarkar betrayed Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, and Sardar Patel by supporting the Britishers.”
The BJP lambasted Gandhi, and the Congress’s ally Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) too slammed him. Uddhav Thackeray said that he did not agree with whatever Gandhi said. Uddhav Thackeray said, “Our views are clear on this issue. We have the highest regard for Savarkar, who faced extremely inhuman conditions in the jail. In fact, we were the first to raise a demand to confer “Bharat Ratna” on Savarkar.”
“Now it is time that the freedom achieved after relentless struggle be safeguarded since the country is heading towards slavery,” Thackeray added.
Ranjit Savarkar demanded Gandhi’s arrest and said that the Congress, which was silent all these years, began criticising Savarkar only after the BJP government led by A. B. Vajpaee came to power in 1999. For its lust for power, the Congress was insulting great freedom fighters.
While the veracity of the letter brought before the media by Rahul Gandhi is yet to be verified, the records show that Savarkar had submitted four mercy petitions to the British but he was the only freedom fighter awarded the maximum punishment of 50 years’ imprisonment.
Savarkar served a 14-year term in cellular jail (Andaman) and was confined for 13 years to Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra (27 years).
Besides, Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru too had adopted a conciliatory approach toward the British on different occasions.
Mahatma Gandhi served seven years in Indian jails and five months in African jails, and his jail terms were reduced most of the time. Lokmanya Tilak served 8 years imprisonment in Mandalay jail (Myanmar (Burma) but did not seek clemency.
Pandit Nehru served a 9-year jail term. He was released from the Central Jail Nabha (Punjab) in 1923, only after he signed a bond that he would never enter the princely state again.
At Cellular Jail, Savarkar was subjected to unconscionable torture and inhumane treatment. He was restrained in chains, flogged, and resigned to six months of solitary confinement. He was made to pound coia with his bare hands, where his hands often dripped with blood. He had to manually turn a massive wheel to squeeze coconuts to produce about 30 pounds a day. This was despite his good conduct.
Savarkar maintained a composite calm, although he was struggling with continually disintegrating health, including a yearlong stint in the prison hospital. The flippant critics fail to acknowledge the incredible strain placed on the political prisoners in cellular jail.
Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivram Rajguru were straightaway hanged on March 23, 1931, in the Lahore conspiracy case.