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World Did Gandhi tell his foe to write a mercy plea?

04:10  15 october  2021
04:10  15 october  2021 Source:   bbc.com

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Did independence hero Mahatma Gandhi advise his political foe to write mercy petitions to the British? He said among the "many falsehoods" about Savarkar was that "he filed multiple mercy petitions before the British government". Mr Singh, according to reports, insisted that Savarkar " did not file these petitions for his release", adding that Gandhi had asked him to file a plea for mercy .

Gandhi also wrote a letter to Savarkar's brother in 1920 on the petition for release. So to say that Savarkar filed the mercy petition at the behest of Gandhi would not be correct according to history. Famous Historian Irfan Habib, while talking to NDTV, also nullified this claim and said Gandhi advised Narayan Savarkar to write a mercy petition after he got a letter from him first. Later, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to the British Government which he later also published in his weekly journal "Young Indian" as well on May 26 1920, which reads, "Thanks to the action of the Government of India and

Did one of India's most divisive political figures repeatedly seek a pardon from the British authorities while in prison? And did his ideological foe and independence hero Mahatma Gandhi support his plea for amnesty?

More than five decades after his death, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's legacy remains fiercely contested.

Although the right-wing leader was exonerated of all charges, his critics allege that Savarkar was connected to the 1948 assassination of Gandhi. They dispute his role in the Indian freedom struggle and condemn his advocacy of a "Hindu nation".

Savarkar's supporters believe that the leader - who later led the Hindu Mahasabha party and birthed the idea of Hindutva (a cornerstone of the ruling BJP's ideology) - was a staunch nationalist and an unwavering patriot.

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Mahatma Gandhi wrote , “They are political offenders in the same sense as men, for instance, who have been discharged in the Punjab. And yet these two brothers have not received their liberty although five months have gone by after the publication of the Proclamation.” His sensational attempt to escape the custody of the police and his jumping through a porthole in French waters, are still fresh in the public mind.” Mahatma Gandhi wrote , “He [Veer Savarkar] is the author of the proscribed history of the Sepoy Revolt of 1857. He was tried in 1910, and received the same sentence as his brother on

Gandhi wrote two letters to his 'Dear Friend' Hitler, but none of them got delivered to him. Reason: both the letters were intercepted midway by the British authorities and hence never saw Hitler's hands. He wrote the first letter a month before Hitler invaded Poland (which marks the beginning of World War ll). Since the war began due Hitler’s personal interest resulting in loss of millions of innocent lives which included thousands of Indians serving the British army, Gandhi was bound to write a letter to Hitler. He knew that it was only Hitler who could stop this madness and hence, as a fellow human and

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Earlier this week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, a key functionary of the Hindu nationalist BJP government, waded into the controversy.

He said among the "many falsehoods" about Savarkar was that "he filed multiple mercy petitions before the British government". Mr Singh, according to reports, insisted that Savarkar "did not file these petitions for his release", adding that Gandhi had asked him to file a plea for mercy.

Mr Singh's remarks sparked protests from Savarkar's critics. Gandhi, an ardent pacifist and opponent of the revolutionary, could not have advised and supported Savarkar's release, they said. One opposition leader blamed Mr Singh for "trying to twist history".

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Singh claimed that it was MK Gandhi who had told Savarkar to write the petitions. At an event in Delhi, India's defence minister Rajnath Singh alleged a conspiracy to defame historical figure Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The BJP leader said that lies have been spread regarding Savarkar's mercy petitions to the British during his incarceration at Cellular Jail in the Andamans.

Savarkar pleaded mercy petitions in year 1911. Mahatma Gandhi returned to INDIA from south Africa only in year 1915. Thankfully the lie master did not say as to how many times Gandhi did insist for nine mercy Someone already wrote Mercy pleas even before Gandhi arrived in India. https

  Did Gandhi tell his foe to write a mercy plea? © Getty Images

Biographers of Savarkar believe the truth is more nuanced.

For one, Savarkar did write at least seven petitions between 1911 and 1920 for his release from the notorious Cellular Jail in the Andaman Islands, where he and his brother Ganesh spent 10 years after they were sentenced for life for waging a war against the state.

The pleas followed a royal proclamation giving amnesty to political prisoners in India. However, British officials - one of them believed that Savarkar was "one of the most dangerous men that India has produced" - rejected the appeals.

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One reason for these frantic petitions may well have been Savarkar's ailing health due to the abominable living conditions in the prison, his biographers say. In a 1920 petition, he expressed his "willingness to join the constitutional line of political activity and "abstain from political activity for a long period of time", notes Vikram Sampath, historian and author of a two-volume biography of Savarkar.

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Mercy petitions are the legal right of every political prisoner. Whenever a someone would approach Gandhiji about a relative's imprisonment, he would first advice them to pen a mercy petition. Of course, he didn't directly ask Savarkar to do so but he probably would've. Nehru conspired to malign Savarkar's name, he made Gandhi do this. While Gandhi came in 1915 to India and savarkar wrote mercy petition in 1913. We can still blame Nehru for time traveling and making Gandhi do this.

Coming up next: In following conversations, many years later, Gandhi also requested Savarkar to arrange bullets for him. Some needless brouhaha abt statement by @rajnathsingh In my Vol 1 & in countless interviews I had stated already that in 1920 Gandhiji advised Savarkar brothers to file a petition & even made a case for his release through an essay in Young India 26 May 1920. So what's noise abt? pic.twitter.com/FWfAHoG0MX.

Critics have mocked Savarkar over the petitions, alleging he apologised to the British rulers to get out of prison. They also say that the leader concealed the fact that he wrote them.

Some of his own supporters insist that Savarkar never wrote such petitions, and even if he did, he certainly did not seek clemency from the British. "Both the allegations are untrue. Savarkar wrote petitions for clemency himself and never denied writing them," says Vaibhav Purandare, author of another recent biography of the leader.

But did Gandhi guide Savarkar to seek a pardon?

The two fiercely opposed each other. Historian Ramachandra Guha says Savarkar's rivalry with Gandhi dated back to 1909 when "he openly abused Gandhi".

"His hatred of Gandhi was [also] intensely personal," Mr Guha said.

"When the leader's wife, Kasturba, died, Savarkar refused to contribute to a fund being created in her memory, saying 'Gandhi had never shed a tear for the martyred men and women hung and shot by the British in pursuit of their armed attempts to overthrow British rule'," Dr Guha noted.

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Yet, in January 1920, Savarkar's younger brother Narayan Rao "did the unthinkable" by writing a letter to Gandhi, a man ideologically opposed to his brother, notes Dr Sampath.

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"In the first of six letters he sought the latter's help and advice in securing the release of his elder brother in the wake of the royal proclamation."

Gandhi sent a rather anodyne reply a week later.

He wrote: "It is difficult to advise you. I suggest, however, framing a brief petition setting forth facts of the case bringing out in clear relief the fact that the offence committed by your brother was purely political."

However, a few months later, Gandhi "built a case for their release" in an article in Young India, a weekly paper. He wrote that the Savarkar brothers had said "they did not entertain any revolutionary ideas".

Savarkar was incarcerated in the notorious Cellular Jail in the Andaman islands © Getty Images Savarkar was incarcerated in the notorious Cellular Jail in the Andaman islands

"They both state unequivocally that they do not desire independence from the British connection. On the contrary, they feel that India's destiny can be worked out in association with the British. Nobody has questioned their honour or their honesty," Gandhi wrote.

Clearly, Gandhi's "intervention" in the affair happened after Savarkar had already begun filing his pleas - in fact he was not even in India when the first such plea was filed.

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His biographers believe that writing these petitions did not amount to "cowardice," as many of Savarkar's critics allege. "By writing these petitions, Savarkar was availing of his rights as a political prisoner at that time. In my opinion, the petitions do not make him less of a revolutionary or an apologist for British rule," says Mr Purandare.

The latest brouhaha may have been needless, Dr Sampath says. But it underlines how Savarkar remains a polarising figure, revered by his supporters and loathed by his critics.

He was also a man of contradictions. On one hand Savarkar was the most vocal political voice for the Hindu community through the entire course of the Indian freedom struggle. On the other, he was a rationalist, who spoke out against Hindu superstition, the caste system, and worship of the cow - a sacred animal for the Hindus.

But after he was charged as a co-conspirator in Gandhi's killing, Savarkar became politically "untouchable".

He spent nearly a third of his life in some form of confinement - jails and restricted movement - before he died, aged 83, in 1966. "He was a bundle of contradictions and a historian's enigma," writes Dr Sampath.

Under the BJP, Savarkar's views have seen a robust revival. The RSS, the BJP's ideological fountainhead, is deeply influenced by the leader. "He's always evoked extreme reactions. From a political revolutionary he became an untouchable and now his legacy is on the ascendant," says Mr Purandare.

But it is a legacy deeply mired in controversy and contradiction.

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This is interesting!