Rajat Sharma

Rahul should read Indira Gandhi’s letter before describing Savarkar as betrayer

AKB30 Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has stirred a hornet’s nest in Maharashtra politics by blaming freedom fighter Veer Savarkar for ‘betraying Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel during the freedom movement’.

in course of his ‘Bharat Jodo’ Yatra in Washim, Maharashtra, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday had compared the martyrdom of tribal revolutionary Birsa Munda with Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar. Rahul alleged that Savarkar wrote letters and mercy petitions to British rulers seeking clemency and promised to remain a “most obedient servant”. Rahul Gandhi alleged that Savarkar used to help the British and take monthly pension from the British government.

Rahul Gandhi alleged that at a time when top freedom fighters were fighting for independence, Savarkar betrayed the leaders by siding with the British and seeking mercy.

Soon after Rahul Gandhi made this remark, FIRs were filed in Maharashtra, and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s cabinet adopted a resolution condemning Rahul Gandhi. Effigies of Rahul were burnt in several cities of Maharashtra.

To clarify his remarks on Savarkar, Rahul Gandhi addressed a press conference in Akola on Thursday. He showed a letter purported to have been written by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar addressed to British rulers in which he had sought clemency. “Savarkar ended the letter with ‘I beg to remain, Sir, your most obedient servant’. Why did he sign this letter? It was because he feared the British”, Rahul Gandhi said.

“This is my opinion about Savarkar ji signing this letter. Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel ji spent several years in jail but they never signed such a letter”, Rahul Gandhi said.

On disagreement with allies like Shiv Sena over such a remark, Rahul Gandhi said: “If someone wants to put their ideology forward, they should. ..There are two ideologies. Our party is open to discussion. We have no dictators.”

On Thursday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, “we do not agree with what Rahul Gandhi has said. We respect Veer Savarkar, but, at the same time, when you are questioning us, the BJP must also explain why they allied with PDP in Kashmir when they were in power there. PDP leaders will never say, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. ..We have allied with the Congress to protect the freedom that we got from the British.”

Uddhav Thackeray said, “I have tremendous respect for Savarkar in my heart. His contribution to India’s freedom cannot be written off. But people who had no contribution in freedom movement, do not have the right to raise such questions.”

This is not the first time that Rahul Gandhi has spoken against Veer Savarkar. Since election campaign is in full swing in Gujarat with Hindutva emerging as a big factor, and Savarkar being a venerable icon of Hindutva, Rahul had to come forward to defend his remarks.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra reminded Rahul of how his grandmother Indira Gandhi had in a letter described Veer Savarkar as ‘a remarkable son of India’ who fought against the British. She had issued a postage stamp depicting Savarkar during her rule. “Rahul Gandhi must now say who is right: he or his grand mother?”, asked Patra.

BJP leader and Maharashtra deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said, “Rahul does not even know how many years Savarkar was locked up inside the dreaded Cellular Jail in Andaman islands… I want to know how many Congress leaders went through suffering like Veer Savarkar for 11 years. Despite prolonged torture in jail, he sang the song of freedom. Rahul, like other Congress leaders, has been lying daily about Savarkar. The people of Maharashtra will give a befitting reply to them at the right time.”

Protests were held by BJP workers from Navi Mumbai to Nagpur against Rahul’s remarks against Savarkar and his effigies were burnt. Shiv Sena (Shinde faction) MP Rahul Shewale demanded a ban on Rahul’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in Maharashtra.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “if BJP had so much respect for Savarkar, why doesn’t the Centre give Bharat Ratna to Savarkar posthumously? Why are you showing fake respect for Savarkar? Shiv Sena had been demanding Bharat Ratna for him for the last 15 years…..There is only one Hindu Hriday Samrat for us. He is Balasaheb Thackeray. ”

In Mumbai, late Veer Savarkar’s grandson Ranjit Savarkar filed a complaint against Rahul Gandhi at Shivaji Park police station. Ranjit Savarkar said, “Rahul Gandhi is lying. Even the British admitted that the application written by Savarkar was normally written by all political prisoners seeking release. Such an application was meant only for public apology”.

I want to point out here that the closing lines ‘I beg to remain, Sir, your most obedient servant’ written by Savarkar in his mercy petition to the British, were almost the same written by Mahatma Gandhi in his letters to the British rulers. This was actually a letter writing format during the British Raj.

Secondly, Indira Gandhi, as Prime Minister on May 20, 1980, had sent a letter to Pandit Bakhle, secretary of Swatantrya Veer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak in Mumbai on the occasion of Savarkar birth centenary. In this letter, Indira Gandhi wrote: “Veer Savarkar’s daring defiance of the British government has its own importance in the annals of our freedom movement. I wish success to the plans to celebrate the birth centenary of the remarkable son of India”.

I wish Rahul Gandhi had read his grandmother’s letter before going public about his opinion about Veer Savarkar. Had he read this letter, he would not have made such remarks about one of the greatest freedom fighters of India.

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