Rajnath's remark on Savarkar triggers political row

Rajnath Singh's remark on Savarkar's mercy petition to British triggers political row

'Savarkar wrote the petitions as his right as a prisoner and not as a stooge of the British government as is made out to be', Rajnath Singh said

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Credit: PTI file photo

Did Veer Savarkar write mercy petitions to the British government at the advice of Mahatma Gandhi? Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's remarks that Savarkar did so set off a war of words between the BJP and the Opposition parties.

“Lies are spread about Savarkar repeatedly. His detractors fail to realise that Savarkar had filed the mercy petitions at the advice of Mahatma Gandhi. He did so as his right as a prisoner and not as a stooge of the British government as is made out to be,” Singh had said at a book release function on Tuesday evening.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh took exception to Singh's assertions and dug out a letter written by Gandhi to Savarkar's brother Narayanrao on January 25, 1920.

“Rajnath Singhji is amongst the few sober and dignified voices in Modi Sarkar. But he doesn't seem to be free of the RSS habit of rewriting history. He has given a twist to what Gandhi actually wrote on Jan 25 1920. Here is that letter to Savarkar's brother,” Ramesh said on Twitter while sharing the letter.

AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said Savarkar had written the first petition in 1911, just six months after getting to prison, when Gandhi was in South Africa.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said Savarkar's mercy petitions cannot be called an “apology”, but should be seen as a strategy by the freedom fighter to get out of jail after languishing there for 10 years.

“Savarkar never apologised to the British,” Raut said.

Historian Vikram Sampath, the author of a two-volume biography of Savarkar, dubbed the row over the mercy petitions as a “needless brouhaha”.

“In my Vol 1 and in countless interviews I had stated already that in 1920 Gandhiji advised Savarkar brothers to file a petition and even made a case for his release through an essay in Young India 26 May 1920. So what's noise about,” Sampath said.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel claimed that Savarkar worked on the British agenda of “divide and rule” by suggesting the two-nation theory.

“In my view, Savarkar can't be understood unless you see him & his dramatic life in all its complexity. If you take one part of the puzzle & think of it as the whole, there's a problem. You have to put the parts together & it's only then you can make sense of the man & his life,” said Vaibhav Purandare, author of a biography of Savarkar.

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