'Veer Savarkar' book review: The Great Indian Hero conundrum

Uday Mahurkar and Chirayu Pandit's book is an attempt at seeking answers to the question whether Hindutva could have prevented Partition.

Published: 09th January 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th January 2022 08:42 PM   |  A+A-

RSS ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

RSS ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (Twitter photo)

Express News Service

With 'Hindutva' being the focal issue of contemporary political and social discourse, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, popularly known as Veer Savarkar, has become one of the most talked-about personalities in recent times. You might love him, you might hate him but you can't ignore him as he is considered to be the ideologue who presented and articulated 'Hindutva' as an ideology in the modern context in the 1920s.

That's why there has been a flurry of books about Savarkar who had a complex and multi-layered personality. Poet, litterateur, organiser, author, historian, revolutionary - these are some of the few aspects of his personality that isn't easy to deal with. Hence most of the books on him have struggled to give a holistic account of his impact on Indian politics and socio-cultural discourse.

Uday Mahurkar and Chirayu Pandit have made a brave attempt through their book to look at arguably the least talked-about aspect of Savarkar's political journey - i.e. Partition of India. The key premise of this book is that, had the Congress adopted by heart the ideology of 'Hindutva' as propounded by Savarkar, the country wouldn't have been partitioned.

In fact, a more appropriate title for the book that really catches the essence of it could have been Veer Savarkar's ideology of 'Hindutva could have prevented Partition'. The authors have painstakingly researched the expanse of Hindu Mahasabha as a political party.

According to them, the Congress deceptively lured away this 'Hindu Vote Bank' from Hindu Mahasabha. But when it came to the issue of partition of India, the Congress compromised the interests of Hindus. 

According to the authors, till 1945, the Hindu Mahasabha as a political party made an impressive show in the elections at all levels defeating Congress candidates in several states. However, the Congress changed its tactics.  

"Faced with an imminent threat, the Congress created an elaborate plan to steal the Mahasabha's thunder... The idea was not to gain Muslim votes but to prevent Hindu votes from going to the Hindu Mahasabha, the Congress' only possible rival for Hindu votes... During 1945-46, the Hindu Mahasabha could not win a single seat in the Central Assembly of 102 seats," the author writes.

The writers then try to nail it and this probably represents the crux of their argument on which this book is based, "....the Congress posturing as a nationalist party to the core during the campaigning in two elections and then dropping it after the polls and coming back to its old pacifist was almost chameleon-like. Actually, as events subsequently proved, the Congress posturing at the time of elections constituted the biggest stab on Hindus' back and very similar to its recent ways when it has been indirectly supporting the most communal Muslim organisations, some of them bordering on anti-national activity."

 This is the argument from which the title of the book has been drawn. However, these are the conclusions drawn by the authors based on their interpretation of the facts. It would have been better to state the historical facts only and let the readers draw their own conclusion.

A substantial part of the book talks about how the Congress was competing with the Hindu Mahasabha (founded and led by Savarkar from 1937 to 1943) for 'Hindu Votes' and how the Congress leaders, like not only Sardar Patel but even Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, much-maligned as a pseudo-secularist these days, were making firebrand speeches   projecting the Congress as a votary of 'Hindutva' in 1945-46 elections.

"Sardar Patel was astutely employed against the Muslim League in a tone that was decidedly pro-Hindu and anti-Partition... Nehru too bellowed in a public meeting in Kolkata that there would be no compromise with the Muslim League," he says.

This less-talked-about facet of the Congress can add an interesting dimension to the ongoing debate  about 'Hindutva vs Hinduism' that has been kicked off by the parties opposed to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. 

Veer Savarkar: The Man Who Could Have Prevented Partition

By: Uday Mahurkar and Chirayu Pandit

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Pages: 352

Price: Rs 595


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