Neglected or hyped? Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is currently one of the divisive figures in Indian politics, while for some, he was a nationalistic hero and for others he is an opportunist.
A five-member panel on both sidelines of the debate held a discussion to talk about VD Savarkar’s rightful place in history at a session on the second day of the Sahitya Aaj Tak 2019 on November 2, 2019 in New Delhi. The session was moderated by India Today TV’s Rahul Kanwal.
On RSS projecting Savarkar as its icon when he had a fractured relationship with the organisation, journalist Vaibhav Purandare said the RSS founder was inspired by Savrakar. “RSS would also like someone who was a freedom fighter and had gone to the jail as it icon,” Purandare said.
RSS thinker Desh Ratan Nigam said it was not consequential if Savarkar was part of the RSS or not, for he created the idea of Hindutva. He, however, added that there were differences between the RSS and Savarkar. To historian Irfan Habib’s counter that Savarkar was chosen by the Rashtrya Swayam Seva (RSS) since the organisation did not have a single personality that could have been taken to the people, Nigam said giving historical figures their due is not appropriation. “They were ignored and left out of history books,” Nigam said.
To this, Irfan Habib said that RSS is a big zero when it comes to freedom struggle. “What has stopped them to write a book on history,” Habib asked. On not pushing its own leaders, Nigam said it was the BJP which brought Savarkar in their manifesto following which the RSS supported it. Panellist Nilanjan Mukhopadyay said RSS was trying to embrace him for what he did as a revolutionary prior to 1911.
Speaking on allegation that Savarkar was never given his due, former AAP leader Ashutosh said this claim by the Right came from inferiority complex and revengeful nature of politics. “Savarkar was one of the brightest nationalist, but things changed after he was arrested,” Ashutosh said added that the RSS chose Saarkar as its icon after it realised that the organisation needed an icon to take forward its ideology.