Vinayak Damodar Savarkar had the longest inning among the Indian revolutionaries. But his life as an active revolutionary was limited only to four years, from June 1906 when he shifted to London for his Law Degree to July 1st, 1910, when he sailed back to India in a ship, ‘Morea’ under police escorts.
Under advice of friends he had changed his headquarters to Paris where many of his old friends of the India House had already shifted. They included Shyamji Krishna Verma, S. R. Rana, Madame Cama, Virendranath Chattopadhaya (Chotto) and V. V. S. Iyer.
While in Paris he received the news of his elder brother, Ganesh’s conviction to transportation for life in the Jackson Murder Case and also of the younger brother, Narayan Rao, in the Conspiracy Case of attempting to murder Lord Minto at Ahmedabad. He decided to return home to be among near ones in their hour of difficulty. A highly educated Indian acted against the advice of all friends around him in Paris. He sailed from Dover on the 12th March 1910 to stop at London for a few days to wind up things at the India House. But the London police was one up. They ‘received’ him on arrival at the Victoria station in London. He was arrested and taken to Bow Street Court. He was charged with ‘waging war against his Majesty, the King Emperor of India’. The Court refused to give him bail and ordered him to be taken to India to stand trial in the Nasik Conspiracy Case. During the proceedings, he could pass a word to Iyer who used to attend the court; “We shall meet again at Mersailles.”
On the 1st July 1910, he was under heavy chains in the steamship. Madame Cama and Iyer were rushing in a taxi to Mersailles to meet their comrade, Vinayak. On the 7th July, in the morning he entered the toiled to answer the call of nature. No law could prevent it. He was free from the chains. The police guards were waiting outside. As there was an inordinate delay they raised an alarm. Savarkar was seen swimming in the sea towards the shore. The police, both French and British, were in great alert at Mersailles. Technically speaking it was the French police who alone could arrest him but they immediately handed him over to the British police. After all, blood is thicker than water.
There was the unseen bond between two Imperialist powers. Savarkar was captive again and brought to the ship, this time under heavier chains. Iyer and Cama, the two friends speeding in a taxi to Mersailles to rescue the comrade in bondage who had just reached a safe soil. But they were a little late. It was like an action packed Hindi film. When they did arrive, they found that all the pleadings by the patriotic prisoner fell on deaf ear. He was already in the hands of the British police. But Indian revolutionaries like Shyamji Krishna Verma, V. V. S. Iyer and Madame Cama appealed to International Court of Justice at the Hague, against the French police, who, they said had no right to hand him over when he sought political asylum. Though the Court conceded that there was some legal loop-hole in the action of the French police, nothing practical was done. It was a fait-accompli.
There was at-least some gain from the episode. Morning Post and Daily News of England, the Post of Germany, La Sociate Nouvell of Belgium, Dar Wanderer of Holland, all denounced the judgement. Monsieur Briand, the Prime Minister of France resigned. He had no face to show in the Parliament. Had only his comrades reached in time, or had he some money with himself to hire a taxi to reach Paris, or had the International Court delivered a different judgement, the history of the Indian Freedom Struggle would have been different with Savarkar not occupying a solitary cell at the Andamans. But it all happened otherwise. He was rushed into a special train to face the trial at Nasik. He took no part in the proceedings. There was no jury and no right to appeal. He was sentenced to transportation for life. His destination was the Andaman Cellular Jail, Room No. 123. It was here that he had the much-needed time to reflect and write on a serious philosophical subject, ‘Hindutva’. For a long time he had a growing feeling that the Hindus, by far the majority community in India, had no clear conception of how glorious their religion was. It had been twisted by interested parties. Our rulers were no less guilty.
Even when many political prisoners were released by the Emperor of India, George the V, at the conclusion of the first Great War, Savarkar was not. He was still considered to be too dangerous to be set free under the General Amnesty. He was sent to Ratnagiri Jail, to be there between 1927 and 1937, under restrictive conditions. It was on 10th May 1937 that he was set free. India was yet far from being a free country. Even when Jinnah refused to discuss the Partition matters with Gandhiji and Netaji, the country was somewhat shocked. To Quaid-e-Azam, Savarkar was the real and only representative of the Hindus, but Bose naturally had the foresight to meet the ‘Veer’ and discuss the matter from all angles. I have it on the authority of Dr. N. B. Khare’s memoirs.
In short, I may end by saying that Savarkar went to jail a Hindu revolutionary and came out as a revolutionary Hindu. His whole concept of Hinduism had undergone a revolutionary re-orientation as is evident from his epoch making book, Hindutva. Ultimately, the great revlutionary, with the longest inning of life, breathed his last in Bombay on the 26th February 1966. It was in an independent India. Savarkar fought his whole life for our independence. To be a Hindu is not a crime. Gandhiji and Maulana Azad were never hesitant to declare their adherence to their religion. They belonged to it. Even Netaji was a religious man in his personal life. To end this paper it will be the most appropriate to quote a few lines which Tagore wrote on the demise of Chittaranjan Das; “You had brought with you a soul immortal which you are bequeathing to us in light eternal.”