Of contested legacies and a war of words: Read an excerpt from Vikram Sampath's book, featuring Savarkar and Jinnah

The book Savarkar (Part 2): A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 is the second in a two-part series about Savarkar's life, following Savarkar (Part 1): Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924.

Vikram Sampath August 14, 2021 10:14:20 IST
Of contested legacies and a war of words: Read an excerpt from Vikram Sampath's book, featuring Savarkar and Jinnah

Editor's note: This excerpt is being republished on account of the book being declared a bestseller.

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In Savarkar (Part 2): A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966, author and historian Vikram Sampath uses original archival research to discuss the life and works of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, among the most contentious political leaders of the 20th century. The book is the last in a two-part series about Savarkar's life, following Savarkar (Part 1): Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924.

The excerpt below is from the chapter 'Tumultuous Times' and discusses the verbal tensions between Jinnah and Savarkar during 1941.

The following excerpt from Savarkar: A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 by Vikram Sampath has been reproduced here with permission from the publisher Penguin Random House India. 

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The April of 1941 saw a war of words between Jinnah and Savarkar. The twenty-eighth Annual Session of the All-India Muslim League was held in Madras on 11 April 1941. Flanked by several Dravidian leaders including EV Ramaswamy Naicker (Periyar), Jinnah openly advocated another separate state — Dravidastan or a coalition of southern states. Periyar and Ambedkar had stood by Jinnah during his campaign of Deliverance Day against the Congress on its resignation from ministries. Periyar had hoped that Jinnah would reciprocate by being a force multiplier to his demands for a separate nation for the Dravidians. In his speech, Jinnah said:

In this subcontinent, you have two different societies, the Muslim society and the Hindu society and particularly in this land, there is another nation, that is Dravidastan. This land is really Dravidastan, and imagine its three percent of electioneering, three percent of them should secure a majority. Is this democracy or is this a farce? Therefore, I have the fullest sympathy and give my fullest support to the non-Brahmins, and I say [to] them: ‘The only way for you to come into your own is to live your own life, according to your culture, according to your language - thank God that Hindi did not go very far here and your own history is to go ahead with your ideal. I have every sympathy for you and I shall do all I can to support you to establish Dravidastan. The seven percent of Muslims will stretch their hand of friendship to you and live with you on lines of equality, justice and fair-play.

Under immense pressure from the Muslim clergy, Jinnah however conveniently backtracked from any support to Periyar’s political moves, stating that he was only concerned about the interests of the Muslims of India and if Periyar felt strongly about this demand, he must mobilize people to assert those claims.

In his presidential address at Madras, Jinnah compared the situation in India to that in Yugoslavia and said that following the German capture of Zagreb, the Yugoslav province of Croatia had been proclaimed as an ‘Independent State’ according to a German news agency, and a Croat general had called upon all officials, army officers and non-commissioned officers to take an oath of allegiance to the ‘New State’. Just like Yugoslavia took this unilateral decision through the actions of the three groups of Croats, Slovenes and the Serbs, in India Hindustan of the Hindus, Pakistan of the Muslims and Dravidastan of the Dravidians were the three stakeholders. ‘Are you going to wait and allow somebody else to come here and do the job for you or are you going to do it yourselves?’ he asked rhetorically. He threatened the eruption of many Pakistans out of undivided India if the government did not accede to their demands. Jinnah also derided the Hindu Mahasabha as an absolutely incorrigible and hopeless body.

Joining issue with him, Savarkar stated that he considered Jinnah’s diatribe against the Mahasabha as a tribute to the unalloyed patriotism of the organization and warned the Congress to open its eyes and read the writing on the wall—a balkanization of India into several splinters that was being propounded openly. If the state of the Croats was indeed an ideal for him, Savarkar asked Jinnah to read about the history of these three communities. He asserted that any pan-Islamist attack on India would be stoutly resisted by a Hindu–Buddhist alliance from Jammu to Japan. Invoking the thousand years of invasions, he said all those attempts to Islamize India had failed due to the valour and the resistance that had been offered by the Hindus of the country. ‘The same fate,’ he asserted, ‘shall these, your petty parasites of your Pakistan states meet after a miserable existence for a time, even if they ever come into existence . . . history avers to the ever-abiding truth in India: Pakistans may come and Pakistans may go, but Hindustan goes on forever.’ Postulating his stand regarding a united India, Savarkar said:

There is consequently only one way for the Indian Moslems to secure their safety, peace and prosperity as a community in India; and that is to get themselves incorporated wholeheartedly and loyally into an Indian nation, which can only be done on the following basic principles: 1) Independence of India and indivisibility of India as a Nation and State, 2) Representation strictly in proportion to the population strength, 3) Public services to go by merit alone, and 4) the fundamental rights of freedom of worship, language, script etc. guaranteed to all citizens alike.

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