On the second day of Mangaluru Lit fest, Author VikramSampath was on discussion on his book Savarkar -Echoes from the past, and unveiled some lesser known facts on Veer Savarkar. Here are the details,
Savarkar’s views on the caste system:
Savarkar used to say,
The original system of the four varnas was based on the qualities (guna ) and actions (karma) of individuals. The categories were not supposed to be hereditary.
The caste system based on birth was an experiment of the science of heredity. There are many factors, besides genetic, which determine qualities of an individual. Intermixing has occurred in all castes.
The caste system must have contributed to the stability of Hindu society, in some situations and in some period. While evaluating the caste system, it is unjust to bring out only its harmful effects, which arose in the later period.
Castes should not be linked with special privileges and rights.
It is wrong to assume that an entire caste is either evil or innocent. To do so would amount to accepting the principle of heredity. The term ‘non-Brahmins’ is wrong, for it includes even the English and Americans.
The current caste system was not a conspiracy of the either the Brahmins or of Brahmins and Kshatriyas. It persisted because it enabled every one to dominate someone else. It is impossible for a sociologist to fathom the lowest caste because every caste considers some other caste to be below it in hierarchy. All castes are guilty of caste arrogance.
The current caste system is a mockery of the original system of four varnas (chaturvarnya) and should be abolished. All Hindus preserved caste distinctions. Hence all Hindus should take the responsibility of abolishing them.
According to Savarkar, the Hindu society was bound by seven shackles ( bandi ):
- Restrictions on touch (sparshabandi) of certain castes.
- Restrictions on inter-dining. (rotibandi)
- Restrictions on inter-marriages (betibandi)
- Restrictions on pursuing certain occupations (vyavasayabandi)
- Restrictions on crossing the sea (sindhubandi)
- Restrictions on rites sanctioned by the Vedas (vedoktabandi)
- Restrictions on re-conversion (shuddhibandi)
Savarkar emphasized on several occasions that there should not be separate schools or temples for the ex-untouchables. Savarkar and his associates used to visit schools to ensure that ex- untouchable pupils were not discriminated against. He strove for entry of all Hindus in temples.
ThePatitpavan temple which came into being in Ratnagiri under Savarkar’s leadership was a unique one for following reasons.
- The trustees of the temple were to be drawn from all four varnas as well as from the ex- untouchables.
- Any Hindu conversant with conduction of the worship could be the temple priest.
- Any Hindu, irrespective of his or her caste could offer worship.
‘Patitpavan’ means ‘one who raises the degraded’. Does that mean Savarkar imply that the untouchables’ were degraded, In his articles, speeches and poems, Savarkar had declared that all Hindus were patit (degraded) because of British rule. According to him, Patitpavan is one who liberates these Hindus. The Gita conceives of God as a liberator –He forgives our sins and gives us salvation. Hence the name ‘Patitpavan’.
Many of our left historians and Congress leaders blame that,
Savarkar carried out social reform only because his political activities were forbiddenby the British. After his unconditional release, he forgot social reform and only did Hindu consolidation.
But the truth is,
In a letter written in 1920 from the Andamans, Savarkar wrote, “Just as I feel that I should rebel against foreign rule over Hindusthan, I feel I should rebel against caste discrimination and untouchability.” This letter was written before he had made up his mind to consolidate the Hindus.
Savarkar continued his campaign for social reform after his unconditional release in 1937. His tours as president of the Hindu Mahasabha were never complete without a visit to the homes of the ex-untouchables. He used to deliver lectures in the Ganesh festivities only on condition that these lectures would be open to ex-untouchables. In 1947, he said, “Time and again, I feel that if my health recuperates and I gain enough strength to enter public life, I must devote at least one-two years towards the work of eradicating untouchability and scripture-based caste discrimination and launch a nation-wide campaign against this pernicious practice. This is the extent to which I feel this work is important not just from the point of view of Hindu consolidation but also of human consolidation as well” (Savarkar, Balarao; AkhandHindusthanLadhaParva; Veer SavarkarPrakashan; Mumbai; 1976, p 369).
To Savarkar, social and political reforms were equally important. They are two wheels of carriage. One cannot progress without the other. But, unless we have political power we do not have the means to make social changes. Therefore political activities took precedence.
We must also consider the situation in the country. In May 1937 when Savarkar was released unconditionally, the Congress Party had been existence for more than 50 years. It was in power in seven major provinces. But Gandhi’s policy of constant capitulation to Muslim aggression was leading to a disaster and Savarkar firmly stood against that capitulation. He had to start from scratch on the political front. In the Central Legislative Assembly, Bhai Paramanand had raised the question of Hindu women being kidnapped in NW Frontier Province.
Some Congress member laughed and said, “Oh, it is just a matter of boys chasing girls.” Dr Khan, a friend of Nehru commented, “Those kidnapped Hindu women should be given away and Government should not take Police action.” Once again Congressmen in the Assembly laughed. Savarkar called them eunuchs. That was the level to which Hindus in Congress Party had stooped. Only Savarkar condemned them openly. He had a formidable task in front of him indeed. He had to give precedence to political struggle over social reforms.
Savarkar carried out social reform not because he had any sympathy for the lower castes but because was politically motivated with a selfish view of winning their support to consolidate Hindu is another such lie spread by our historians.
In a letter written in 1920 from the Andamans, Savarkar wrote, “Just as I feel that I should rebel against foreign rule over Hindusthan, I feel I should rebel against caste discrimination and untouchability.” This letter was written before he had made up his mind to consolidate the Hindus. The following unambiguous statements of Savarkar made in 1927 ( SamagraSavarkarVangmaya, vol. 3, p 483) debunk the notion that Savarkar had a narrow political reason for doing social reform.
He says, “Untouchability should go mainly because unnecessarily considering our seven crore (seventy million) co-religionists “untouchables” and worse than animals is not only an insult to the human race but also a great insult to our soul.
Eradication of untouchability is in the interests of our Hindu society and hence also it must go, but even if Hindu society were to be partially gain from that custom, we would have opposed it with the same vehemence….From the point of view of justice, dharma and humanism, it (fight against untouchability) is a duty…In the present circumstances, what will our gain in fighting it is a secondary question. This question of gain is an aapaddharma (duty to be done in certain exceptional circumstances) and eradication of untouchability is the foremost and absolute dharma.
NS Bapat, one of Savarkar’s associates was an eyewitness when Savarkar composed his poem “Malaadevaachedarshangheudyaa, dole bharun devas malaapaahudya ” (“Let me have a glimpse of god, let me see god to my heart’s content”) in 1931.
It is worth mentioning that the same Savarkar had remained unmoved when he heard the judge sentencing him to two Transportations for Life!
In 1924, Savarkar said, “I am confident that I shall live to see the eradication of untouchability. It is my fervent desire that after I die, my dead body should be lifted by Dhends, Doms (ex-untouchable castes) along with Brahmins and Banias and they should all cremate my body.
Only then will my soul rest in peace” (Savarkar, Balarao; Hindu SamajSanrakshakSavarkar (RatnagiriParva), Veer SavarkarPrakashan; Mumbai; 1972, p.67). Savarkar’s words and actions confirm, if confirmation is needed, that Savarkar’s commitment to social reform stemmed from his humanism and not from any ulterior motive.
Dr. Sindhu Prashanth