By Prof. Shamsul Islam
The 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose falls on on January 23, 2021. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a senior RSS cadre who identifies himself as Hindu Nationalist will be in Kolkata to inaugurate the celebrations given the nomenclature, ‘Parakram Diwas’ [Valour Day]. According to the RSS-BJP government January 23rd will continue to be commemorated as ‘Parakram Diwas’ in future also. According to government hand-out it was to “honour and remember Netaji’s indomitable spirit and selfless service to the nation and inspire people of this country, specially the youth, to act with fortitude in the face of adversity as Netaji did, and to infuse in them a spirit of patriotic fervour”. Through such gimmick by PM Modi and his government, the only aim of the flag-bearers of the Hindutva politics is to hide their nefarious and acts which the Hindu Nationalists under the leadership of VD Savarkar and RSS committed against Netaji and his liberation army, Indian National Army (INA or Azad Hind Fauj)
Hindutva gang continues to pretend to have great admiration for Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who attempted to organise a military campaign to force the British out of India. But very few people know about the shameless betrayal of his cause by the Hindu Mahasabha under the leadership of Savarkar who continues to be adored by Modi and RSS as Hindutva icon. When Netaji during World War II was trying to secure foreign support for liberation of the country and trying to organise a military attack on the northeast of the country which finally culminated in the formation of INA, it was Savarkar who offered full military cooperation to the British masters. While addressing 23rd session of Hindu Mahasabha at Bhagalpur in 1941, he said:
“The war which has now reached our shores directly constitutes at once a danger and an opportunity which both render it imperative that the militarization movement musts be intensified and every branch of the Hindu Mahasabha in every town and village must actively engage itself in rousing the Hindu people to join the [British] army, navy, the aerial forces and the different war-craft manufactories [sic].”
[CitedinSavarkar,V.D.,SamagraSavarkarWangmaya:HinduRashtraDarshan,vol.6,MaharashtraPrantikHindusabha,Poona, 1963, pp.460-61.]
To what extent Savarkar was willing to help the British would be clear by the following words ofhis:
“So far as India’s defence is concerned, Hindudom must ally unhesitatingly, in a spirit of responsive co-operation with the war effort of the Indian government in so far as it is consistent with the Hindu interests, by joining the Army, Navy and the Aerial forces in as large a number as possible and by securing an entry into all ordnance, ammunition and war craft factories…Again it must be noted that Japan’s entry into the war has exposed us directly and immediately to the attack by Britain’s enemies. Consequently, whether we like it or not, we shall have to defend our own hearth and home against the ravages of the war and this can only be done by intensifying the government’s war effort to defend India. Hindu Mahasabhaits must, therefore, rouse Hindus especially in the provinces of Bengal and Assam as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute.”
Savarkar called upon Hindus “to flood the [British] army, the navy and the aerial forces with millions of Hindu warriors with Hindu Sanghatanist hearts” and assured them that if Hindus recruited in the British armed forces,
“our Hindu nation is bound to emerge far more powerful, consolidated and situated in an incomparably more advantageous position to face issues after the war— whether it be an internal anti-Hindu Civil War or a constitutional crisis or an armed revolution.”
The following concluding words of his Bhagalpur address made it clear that as per his wisdom, sub-serving the British war efforts would herald a great future for the Hindus of the country:
“If ever the saying was true that the darkest hour of the night is nearer the golden rise of the morn, it holds good today. The war that has approached our shores from the East and may threaten us in due course even from the West is a danger which may prove unparalleled in its magnitude, ravages and results. But it is also bound to break into a new day for the world and there are no signs wanting to show us that not only a newer but a better Order [sic] may ensure out of this world chaos. Those who have lost all may gain much in the end. Let us also bide our time and pray and act for thebest.”[Ibid., pp. 461-462.]
It may be noted here that it was from Eastern India that INA was trying to enter in India.
Savarkar’s total support to the British war efforts when Netaji was trying to chalk out a strategy to throw out the British rule from India through armed struggle was the result of a well-thought-out Hindutva design. It was in Madura (22nd session of the Hindu Mahasabha, 1940) that he made his choice clear. His support to the British rested on the logic that “it is altogether improbable that in this war England will be defeated so disastrously as to get compelled to hand over her Indian Empire, lock, stock and barrel into German hands”[Ibid.,p.419.]thus believing in the invincibility of the BritishEmpire.
His presidential address at Madura is a living testimony to his unabashed support to the British imperialistic designs. He out rightly rejected Netaji’s attempts to liberate India. He declared:
“Not only on moral grounds but on the grounds of practical politics we are compelled not to concern ourselves on behalf of the Hindu Mahasabha organisation with any programme involving any armed resistance, under the present circumstances.” [Ibid., p.421.]
There was absolutely no ambiguity in his support to the British military designs. He presented a strange alibi in order to justify the unashamed support to the colonial masters. According to his logic,
“Thus after taking stock of all other courses and factors for and against us, I feel no hesitation in proposing that the best way of utilizing the opportunities which the war has afforded to us cannot be any other than to participate in all war efforts which the [British] government are compelled by circumstances to put forth in so far as they help in bringing about the militarization and industrialization of our people.” [Ibid., p.427.]
When the British government in the wake of the World War II decided to raise new battalions of its armed forces, it was Hindu Mahasabha under direct command of Savarkar which decided to enroll Hindus in a big way in this venture. This is what Savarkar reported to the delegates at the Hindu Mahasabha session at Madura:
“Naturally, the Hindu Mahasabha with a true insight into a practical politics decided to participate in all war efforts of the British government in so far as they concerned directlywith the question of the Indian defence and raising new military forces in India.”
It was not as if Savarkar was unaware of the strong resentment which was brewing in the ranks of common Indians against such an approach. He brushed aside any criticism of Hindu Mahasabha’s decision of co-operating with the British in war efforts as,
“political folly into which the Indian public is accustomed to indulge in thinking that because Indian interests are opposed to the British interests in general, any step in which we join hands with the British government must necessarily be an act of surrender, anti- national, of playing into the British hands and that co-operation with the British government in any case and under all circumstances is unpatriotic andcondemnable.”[Ibid.,p.428.]
If on the one hand, Bose was working on the military strategies to take help of the German and Japanese forces to liberate India, on the other hand, Savarkar was busy in directly assisting the British colonial masters. This amounted to the betrayal of the cause espoused by Netaji. Savarkar and Hindu Mahasabha openly stood with the British government which later was able to kill and maim thousands of brave cadres of the INA. While greatly eulogizing the British masters, Savarkar told his followers at Madura that due to the ever- advancing forces of Japan with a declared objective of freeing Asia from European influence, the British government needed Indians in large numbers in its armed forces which must be helped. While praising the British war strategy, hesaid:
“The British statesmanship, far sighted as it usually is, realised this also that if ever war broke out with Japan, India itself must be the centre of gravity of all war preparations…chances are that an army with the strength of a couple of millions shall have to be raised, manned by Indians under Indian officers as rapidly as Japan succeeds in advancing near our Frontiers.” [Ibid., p. 435.]
Savarkar spent the next few years in organizing recruitment camps for the British armed forces which were to slaughter the cadres of INA in different parts of North-East later. The Madura conference of Hindu Mahasabha concluded with the adoption of an ‘immediate programme’ which stressed “to secure entry for as many Hindus recruits as possible into army, navy and the air forces”. [Ibid., p.439.]
He also informed them that through the efforts of Hindu Mahasabha alone, one lakh Hindu’s were recruited in the British armed forces in one year. It is to be noted that during this period RSS continued inviting Savarkar to address the RSS youth gatheringsfor motivating the latter to recruit into the British armedforces.
Savarkar, while emphasizing the need to join the British war efforts, gave following direction to the Hindu Mahasabha cadres:
“Turn this inevitable co-operation with the British as profitable to your own country as it ispossible under our present circumstances to do. Because let it not be forgotten that those who fancy that they can claim of not having co-operated with the government and helped the war-efforts either on account of the demoralising and hypocritical fad of absolute non- violence and non-resistance even in face of an armed aggression or as a matter of policy simply because they do not join the fighting forces, are but indulging in self-deception and self-complacency.”[Underlined as in the original text.]
[Bhide,A. S., (ed.), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President’s Diary of his Propagandist Tours Interviews from December 1937 to October 1941, na, Bombay, 1940, p. xxiv.]
His call to the Hindus had no ambiguity:
“Let the Hindus therefore come forward now and enter the army, the navy and the air-forces, the ordnance and other war-crafts factories in their thousands and millions.” [Ibid., p.xxvi.]
Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar’s leadership organised high-level Boards in different regions of the country to help the Hindus seeking recruitment in the British armed forces. We come to know through the following words of Savarkar that these Boards were in direct contact with the British government. Savarkar informed the cadres,
“To deal with the difficulties and the grievances which the Hindu recruits to the Army find from time to time, a Central Northern Hindu Militarization Board has been formed by the Hindu Mahasabha at Delhi with Mr. Ganpat Rai, B.A., L.L.B Advocate, 51, Panchkuin Road, New Delhi, as convener. A Central Southern Hindu Militarization Board is also formed under the Chairmanship or Mr. L.B. Bhopatkar, M.A., LL.B., President Maharashtra Provincial Hindusabha, Sadashiv Peth Poona.”
[Ibid., p. xxvii.]
This clearly shows that the British Government had accommodated leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha on its official war committees. Those who declare Savarkar as a great patriot and freedom fighter must bow their heads in shame when they read the following instruction from Savarkar to those Hindus who were to join the British forces:
“One point however must be noted in this connection as emphatically as possible in our own interest that those Hindus who join the Indian [read the British] Forces should be perfectly amenable and obedient to the military discipline and order which may prevail there provided always that the latter do not deliberately aim to humiliate Hindu Honour.” [Ibid., p. xxviii.]
Shockingly, Savarkar never felt that joining the armed forces of the colonial masters was in itself a great humiliation for any self-respecting and patriotic Indian. Bhide’s book also tells us that he alone drafted the following resolution titled ‘Maha Sabha and the Great War’ which read:
“As the task of defending India from any military attack is of common concern to the British government as well as ourselves and as we are unfortunately not in a position today to carry out that responsibility unaided, there is ample room for whole-hearted cooperation between India and England.[Ibid., pp.153-154.]
To help the British military command in recruiting Hindus for its armed forces was not Savarkar’s project only. According to the Hindu Mahasabha archives he was regularly invited to address the major RSS shakhas and events for stressing the need to join the British armed forces. Bhide’s book mentions at least 40 of such meetings.
World War II was also the period when different groups of revolutionaries and Subhash Chandra Bose were trying to secure help from countries like the USSR.
Savarkar used the occasion of his 59th birthday also for promoting Hindu Mahasabha’s call for large-scale Hindu recruitment to the British military forces. In his birthday message, he called uponevery,
“Hindu who is capable to put in military service, join the land forces and the air forces orsecure entry into the ammunition factories and such other manufacturing workshops in connection with war crafts.”
[Ibid, p. 414.]
The British Government was in regular touch with Savarkar so far as the organisation of its highest war bodies was concerned. It included individuals whose names were proposed by Savarkar. This is made clear from the following thanksgiving telegram Savarkar sent to the British government. Bhide’s volume tells us that,
“The following Telegram was sent by Barrister V.D. Savarker [sic], the President of the Hindu Mahasabha to (1) General Wavell, the Commander in-Chief; and (2) the Viceroy of India on the 18th instant (July 18, 1941).
YOUR EXCELLENCY’S ANNOUNCEMENT DEFENCE COMMITTEE WITH ITS PERSONNEL IS WELCOME. HINDUMAHASABHA VIEWS WITH SPECIAL SATISFACTION APPOINTMENT OF MESSERS KALIKAR AND JAMNADAS MEHTA.”
[As per the original text.][Ibid., p. 451.]
It is important to note here that even the Muslim League, sub-serving the interests of the British rulers, refused to align in these war efforts or join Defence Committees established by the government as done by Savarkar.
It is height of hypocrisy that the Hindutva gang which worked as the frontline stooges of the colonial, having no self-respect and cowardice being its fundamental character wants Indians to commemorate the valour and sacrifices of Netaji and his comrades. By co-opting Netaji it wants to keep under wrap its criminal betrayal not of former’s liberation struggle but freedom struggle in general. It is shocking the nefarious ideas and deeds of the Hindutva gang against Netaji have been kept hidden. If India is to be saved from coming under the Iron Heel of the Hindutva juggernaut, we must share these facts with common Indians.
Shamsul Islam is a former Professor of Delhi University
Link for some of S. Islam’s writings in English, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati and video interviews/debates: